With so much to be made of Rick Van Galder’s arrest and shameful jail stay, it can be easy to miss the details that we can truly learn from. The latest in Wendy Halloran’s investigative report is Mesa PD’s investigation into the shame brought upon the department by Rick’s wife, Homicide Detective Teresa Van Galder. And there is plenty of it to go around. Still, this entire mess has something that too many Americans can actually relate to. It’s just obscured by the arrest itself and subsequent jail visit.
So let’s look at it from a different perspective by peeling away some of the more spectacular layers. First, take their law enforcement careers and connections out of the picture. Take away the entire debacle at the jailhouse and its related fallout. Take away their expert training and first hand job experiences with deadly drunk drivers.
Take all that away and you are left with something very dangerous AND very common. You are left with a couple that drinks together and drives away together. With all the bad decisions that Teresa Van Galder made after Rick’s arrest, it was her decision before the arrest that deserves a spotlight. She chose to get extremely drunk with her super extremely drunk husband and then get in the car with him. Obviously, she could not have driven. With food falling out of her mouth, Teresa was just about THIS drunk. But she did not hesitate to be Rick’s passenger. Do you know why? Because these two have routinely endangered each other and the public like this. Teresa was probably confident Rick would get them home safely as he had so many times in the past. But passively going along for the ride is a mistake that leads to death DAILY. While we tend to think of drunk drivers hitting and killing strangers, they often kill their passengers. When the passenger of a drunk driver dies, it is a friend, a spouse, or even the child of the drunk driver.
With such high stakes, it is amazing that someone would regularly put themselves into a situation as dangerous as the passenger of a drunk driver. It is a maneuver truly worthy of shame; a maneuver leading to death on our roadways continually. It is so much bigger than the Van Galders.
Without all the layers we removed in this discussion, it is just an arrest instead of a story. As often as couples go out drinking together and driving home drunk, it doesn’t usually become a story until somebody dies. And THAT is a shame.