A former CSUF University Police sergeant pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts: driving under the influence of alcohol and having a blood alcohol content of 0.09 percent, which is 0.01 percent over the legal limit.
Thomas Henry Higgs, 59, originally faced the maximum sentence of six months in county jail. However, he was officially sentenced with three years of informal probation and a three-month alcohol program after pleading guilty on Aug. 28.
At approximately 8 p.m. on May 7, Higgs showed signs of intoxication during a Cal State Fullerton University Police briefing, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s press release.
After the briefing, officers on shift notified their command staff that Higgs showed signs of intoxication.
University Police Capt. Scot Willey was one of the three captains brought in to investigate the matter, along with Chief Raymund Aguirre. Higgs was on patrol in a police car when he was called to meet the command staff. The officers “noticed possible alcohol on his breath” and proceeded to take his car and get him back to the station. Higgs went through a series of field sobriety tests, Willey said.
He was arrested and released that night, immediately being placed on administrative leave. The following day, Higgs retired. His arrest was not confirmed to be the reason, but Willey said Higgs was close to retirement before the incident had occurred.
Willey described finding his fellow officer under these conditions as heartbreaking, but said the officers proceeded as they would with all other DUI cases.
“On a personal level it was brutal, on a professional level we just had to do the right thing,” Willey said. “We’re police officers and the public has an expectation of us. We agree with that and we have to be held to a higher standard. We stood by that and did the ethical thing.”
The department takes drunk driving very seriously with 16 DUI arrests so far this year, Willey said.
“We pride ourselves in the DUI arrests we get here every year,” he said. “We have officers that are recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving every year for their service and for being able to do as many DUI arrests as we do.”
Higgs worked at the CSUF police department for over 20 years. He was promoted to sergeant in 1999 after serving as a public safety officer on campus for over eight years. Willey said he has known Higgs his entire career and described Higgs as a “very great guy that made a poor decision.”
“I hope the public understands we handled this as professionally and appropriately as anybody would. It wasn’t a professional courtesy type of a situation. This was something that was brutal but needed to be handled appropriately. We believe we did that,” Willey said.