Mesa Police Lieutenant Faced Firing for Super-Extreme DUI Before Retiring

A Mesa police supervisor was facing termination before he retired last week following his recent conviction for super-extreme DUI, a police spokesman says.

Richard “Rick” Van Galder, who had more than 20 years on the force, was stopped in February with his wife, Teresa, a Mesa PD homicide detective, as they were trying to make it home after a day of golfing and drinking. Van Galder had been driving erratically and slurred his words as he tried to talk Gilbert police officers out of citing him.

As Wendy Halloran from Channel 12 News (KPNX-TV) reported earlier this month, body-cam footage shows Van Galder promising to retire the next day, asking to be allowed to walk home and telling the cops, “your hands aren’t tied.” He subjected the officers to a profanity-laden speech and told them he normally would have 140 officers in “awe” of everything he said, Halloran reported.

Van Galder refused a field test but blew a .306 BAC in a breath test. Anything higher than .20 is considered "supreme-extreme" DUI under Arizona law.

Van Galder was reassigned to a desk position after the arrest as an internal investigation unfolded at Mesa PD, department spokesman Detective Steve Berry tells New Times. He later took a plea deal in the case on July 29 and served three days in jail, plus 11 days on house arrest.

“Let’s face it,” Berry explains. “We’ve had people with a DUI. They might get demoted, have a big suspension. They’d probably take their lumps and move on. With a super-extreme .306, you’re moving in uncharted waters.”

The department had begun termination proceedings against Van Galder when he submitted for retirement last week, Berry says.

Van Galder, who had no previous discipline on his record, will receive his full retirement benefits, including a lump-sum Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) payment that's typically six figures.

Below, see body-cam footage on YouTube of Van Galder's wife being taken from their car:

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern