When Jimmy Oestmann was a teenager, dreaming of one day becoming a police officer, he wasn't buying into Hollywood's fictional fantasies about the lives of cops.
No, this 25-year-old Payson native bought into the truth of what being a policeman means, brought to him courtesy of his uncle, Casey Lincoln, who was a highway patrolman here in town for about four years in the late '80s and early '90s.
"I was pretty close to him, and we always talked about police work," Oestmann recalls. "He gave me a pretty realistic view of the job. I did a lot of ride-alongs with him, and that really cemented my perspective of the job.
"One time I got to assist in serving a search warrant on a house. We knocked the door down, secured the place, and I got to go in and observe what they did inside. That just kind of sealed the deal. I knew that's what I wanted to do."
Boy, did he. Not only did Oestmann become a police officer for the Arizona Department of Safety in 1997, he now holds the distinction of being one of only two certified DRE's Drug Recognition Experts in Northern Gila County.
"The DRE is a nationwide program and has been around since it was initiated by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1969," Oestmann explains. "It was created by some street officers who were making a lot of traffic stops and seeing that they had drivers who appeared to be impaired, but there was no odor of alcohol. They figured drugs were the cause of the impairment, but at that time, there was know way to determine that with any certainty."
Alcohol screenings utilizing blood or breath samples provide "a quantity of measure in terms of alcohol concentration," Oestmann says. "With drugs, there is no quantity of measure; it's either in your system or it isn't." And the only ways to determine their presence back in the '60s, he adds, was through blood tests and urinalysis that could hardly be performed during a roadside stop.
"So medical doctors, scientists and researchers developed this program which allows you to evaluate the person, determine if they are actually impaired by drugs, and determine which drug category they are impaired by," Oestmann says.
The program features a series of tests, including field sobriety tests, psycho-physical tests and medical tests, such as the measurement of blood pressure, pulse rate and body temperature.
"The pupils of the eyes are also a big indicator of the presence of three of the seven drug categories: central nervous system depressants, inhalants and PCP will dilate your pupils," he says. "The only drugs that will constrict your pupils are narcotics like heroin, morphine and Percoset."
Oestmann is naturally an animated guy but he becomes most animated when talking about this particular subject.
"Drug enforcement, DUI enforcement and undercover drug investigations have always interested me," he says. "Early in my career, when this training became available and nobody else in my area wanted it, I just took the leap without any hesitation at all."
After completing the DRE training, Oestmann says, "I was the only DRE in northern Gila County, and just one of three in the whole county. Whenever the Payson Police Department, the sheriff's office or the narcotics task force or DPS road officers get a driver impaired by drugs, they call me. So my phone rings in the middle of the night a lot."
Biography of a cop
Born in Mesa, but immediately brought home to Payson by his parents father Dale Oestmann and mother Sue, now married to Dr. Alfonso Munoz Oestmann loved growing up in Arizona's high country.
"There wasn't a whole lot to do," he says, "but maybe because my parents influenced my sister Dawne and I to be involved in church activities and sports, we didn't have time to sit around and think about being bored."
After graduating from Payson High School, Oestmann headed straight to John Wood Community College in Quincy, Ill., where he played baseball for a semester on a partial scholarship ... and started studying courses in criminal justice.
"I kept in touch with my uncle, and he told me that DPS was doing their cadet trainee program, where they'd hire you at 18 years of age to come in and work in a district office," he remembers. "Basically, you were a mail runner, but at the same time you had required ride-along time and got to learn about how the department operated.
"I decided I'd give it a shot. It meant leaving the baseball team and moving back to Arizona, which was a pretty tough decision. But I knew that the chances of making a lot of money playing baseball were probably slimmer than making money as a cop."
So Oestmann returned to Arizona. But when he was actually eligible to become a cadet trainee, DPS did away with the program. "So I had to start all over again," he says.
He went back to school, first attending Eastern Arizona College, and then Glendale Community College, from which he graduated in 1996 after studying administration of criminal justice. Oestmann wanted to work for DPS, but also wanted to cover all his bases so he spent one entire day applying to every major police agency in the Valley.
"All of a sudden, DPS called and offered me a job, so I took it. That's the agency I wanted to work for."
At the time, Payson had no DPS police-officer positions in need of being filled, so Oestmann agreed to work in Globe. But about two or three weeks before he was supposed to move, his district commander approached him and said, "Hey, what do you think about going to Payson? There's an opening."
Since that time, Oestmann has been living up to the police-officer standard he set for himself back when he helping his uncle in those ride-alongs.
"I just hope that people look at me and say that I'm a hard worker," he says. "That's important to me. That any time anybody calls me for my services, I am quick to respond and to give 100-percent effort."