From the Field

Welcome to Club 253

Posted: Dec 17, 2012 2:22 PM ET Last Updated: Dec 17, 2012 2:22 PM ET
Staff Sgt. Scott Warnica laughs with his whole body.
 
The wiry Mountie has the storyteller's gift. Each tale erupts from somewhere deep in his DNA. He can't hold them in.

His hands flail, he leans forward and then back, his body punctuating every point, his eyes daring you to look away. Trouble is you want to look away from some of his stories. Things he was forced to see. He only shares those stories with the people who know. If you have to ask what that means, be grateful. It means you are not one of those people.
 
Warnica has been a Mountie for 21 years. On his worst week he took notes, talked to witnesses and tried to stay busy as he watched the bodies pulled from mangled wrecks on three different days. Two of the dead drivers were dead drunk in the final seconds of their lives. The third didn't bother clicking his seat belt before pressing the gas pedal just a little too hard.
 
One of the drunks didn't have her seat belt on either. He still sees her on the ground. She was tossed from her truck. The cab landed upside down on her head. The rest of her body was fine but she was gone. Hers is a story that is never far from his mind, although he doesn't share it often.
 
Warnica figures he's handled 400 drunk driving calls. Many ended in death. He'll tell you there is never a moment day or night when there is not a drunk, driving somewhere in Metro Halifax. Listen to a police radio during the morning rush hour or late at night and you'll be hard pressed to argue the point.
 
Last night he raced down Highway 101 hunting a silver Volkswagen Passat. Someone spotted it crawling at 10 kilometers per hour in the passing lane. Warnica found it wedged up against a guard rail, its rear stuck out in the passing lane waiting to be hit.
 
He looked down at a 46-year-old woman slumped behind the wheel. He knew the warm air wafting from her open window would trip a roadside breathalyzer. There was no roadside test though. She couldn't get out to take it. Mounties carried her to a squad car and later into the detachment. They pulled 21 empty liquor bottles from the car. They weren't in a blue bag.
 
Warnica has seen three - maybe four - people that drunk in his career. Someday this woman will be fodder for his storytelling. For now she only rates a shake of his head. That, and a tick on his club 253 score card.
 
A few Mounties here started Club 253 a year ago. It's a way to track who catches the most impaired drivers. There is no incentive to join or reward beyond car to car bragging rights. It's named for the criminal code section for impaired driving. It takes ten 253 charges just to get into the club and compete.
 
The woman in the Volkswagen was number 12 for Warnica this year. Nothing compared to the 45 charges credited to the officer leading the club as the year fades. Still, not bad for a shift supervisor who spends as much time driving a desk as he does a patrol car.  
 
He's cheering on the Watch One officers he supervises. Its members hold four of the top nine spots in club 253. You can keep track of their progress. Like any born story teller Warnica has taken to twitter to share his tales. Follow along at @RCMPwatch1. Be forewarned, some of what you read will be sobering.
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About the Author

Phonse Jessome has been chasing stories down the main streets and back roads of Nova Scotia since the spring of 1981. So far he is showing no signs of giving up the chase.

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