Brookfield Pitches in Where Sebena's Skills Are Missed in OWI Arrest

Suspect and passenger speak only Spanish, and absent the abilities of talented young officer, Tosa's late shift calls on neighbors for booking assistance.

Police mutual aid doesn't always mean seeking strength in numbers. Sometimes it's about special expertise, in this case with overcoming a language barrier – something the Wauwatosa third shift has lately and most dearly and tragically lacked.

According to Wauwatosa police reports:

At 12:17 a.m. Tuesday, a 32-year-old Milwaukee man was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, first offense, after a patrol officer saw him almost hit a county bus in the 10900 block of Blue Mound Road.

The officer had seen the driver weaving in his lane and was keeping an eye on him when he swerved and narrowly missed the bus, prompting the officer to hit his lights. He said the driver didn’t pull over to the curb until he reached the 9800 block of Blue Mound, and that when he did, he kept rolling forward slowly for some distance.

As neither he driver nor his passenger spoke any English, only Spanish, the officer asked in his very limited Spanish if they had any cervezas, and they nodded, admitting they did.

The officer found an open 12-pack of Modelo beer in the back seat, with eight empties and four unopened.

A backup officer with slightly better Spanish was called, and the driver was asked to perform field sobriety tests. He tried, but kept losing his balance and eventually stopped the tests of his own according, admitting her could not perform the steps.

He was taken to the police station for booking and another call went out for anybody on the shift with a fluency in Spanish, but none could be found. The call was broadcast among mutual aid departments, and Brookfield police Officer Garcia quickly responded.

The suspect blew a .27 blood alcohol concentration on a breath test.

Sebena got to the bottom of language puzzle

While the assist from Brookfield was appreciated, it should never have had to be made.

One of the last calls on record for the late Wauwatosa Police Officer Jen Sebena was for exactly such an assist. The night before she died on duty, a homicide victim, she responded to a third-shift call for a Spanish-speaking officer to assist with a Hispanic OWI suspect who spoke next to no English.

Despite Sebena's downplaying of her level of fluency, her Spanish proved more than good enough.

After aiding in the arrest, Sebena offered to help with booking, and through questioning she raised a suspicion that the suspect was giving a false name, even though he had several valid-looking forms of identification.

Sebena felt the man was hiding something, and she thought it odd that a Morpho fingerprint record brought back no results. On a hunch, she performed a second, more thorough search of the suspect's car and located another hidden ID card with a different name.

A background check through the U.S. Immigration Service confirmed that was the suspect's true identity and produced a matching fingerprint record – and that led police to learn that he was on parole and wanted on warrants.

The suspect admitted the other cards he carried were a suite of carefully made fakes he had bought from a Milwaukee forger.

Translation and investigation, leading to a quick resolution to a tricky case – more examples of how much Sebena's skills and immense promise meant to the Wauwatosa Police Department.

Sebena did not live to write her own supplemental report on the incident. Her part was recorded with full and admiring credit by her fellow officer – before her death.


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