Following an annual Police Department golf tournament fundraiser that ended in an officer being charged with a DUI after crashing a motor scooter on the fairway of the Rooster Run Golf Course last October, the department, led by Police Chief Patrick Williams, is taking extra precautions this year.
"We learned quite a few lessons that we will not repeat," Williams said Monday. "And though we learned a lot from what was an isolated event last year, going forward we expect to have an incident-free fundraiser — just as we have had for many years."
The annual October golf tournament is a Petaluma Police event that raises money for the department's hostage negotiation team and a local charitable cause, which changes each year. It's held at the Rooster Run Golf Course on East Washington Street, and usually occurs with little fanfare.
But last year's festivities turned sour when off-duty Police Officer Ryan McGreevy reportedly became intoxicated at the Oct. 5 event. According to charges later filed by the Sonoma County District Attorney's office, McGreevy allegedly drove a fellow officer's personal motorized scooter onto the fairway of the fourth hole and crashed. Emergency personnel transported McGreevy to Petaluma Valley Hospital and later to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, to treat a serious head wound he sustained during the crash.
In the state of California, operating any motorized vehicle under the influence of alcohol is illegal, including on a golf course. Though many Petaluma and California Highway Patrol officers and administrators were present at the event, no one reported McGreevy's crash as a possible DUI. No sobriety tests or blood alcohol tests were administered at the scene, leading to criticism of the department's handling of the incident.
After a month-long investigation by the California Highway Patrol, the Sonoma County District Attorney's office charged McGreevy with a DUI. But according to the District Attorney's office, a lack of on-scene blood alcohol tests — coupled with McGreevy's otherwise clean driving record — weakened the case. McGreevy ultimately pleaded to a lesser reckless driving charge. He paid an $850 fine, was forced to attend a drunk driving education school and had additional restrictions placed on his drivers license, though the license was not suspended. Williams has declined to comment on whether or not McGreevy will receive any discipline within the department, citing privacy reasons.
As this year's Oct. 11 golf tournament nears, Williams has installed a number of precautionary measures that he hopes will prevent any inappropriate incidents at future fundraisers.
"We're going to have an 'event monitor' whose entire responsibility is to make their presence known and to monitor the activities of the event volunteers and participants," Williams said. "We want someone there so that we can respond quickly and effectively if someone isn't behaving appropriately."
Williams also said that all event volunteers will undergo responsible beverage service training and that alcohol awareness cards with numbers of taxi services will be placed in every participant's gift bag.
"The morning of the event itself, we'll have a safety briefing with everyone to reinforce the importance of appropriate behavior," said Williams. "We want this to be a fun and successful event, which is what we've had in the past."
This year's golf tournament will benefit high school golf programs at Casa Grande, Petaluma and St. Vincent High Schools.