Union City cop charged with DWI in Secaucus admitted to having ‘a couple drinks’

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A Union City police officer that was charged with driving while intoxicated in Secaucus last month admitted to having “a couple drinks” after being found asleep at the wheel with the car still in drive and his foot on the brake, police body camera footage shows.

Mauricio Garces, 34, of Secaucus and a member of the Union City PD since 2019, was arrested for DWI and reckless driving at about 3:18 a.m. on July 2nd, the police report says.

Secaucus police officers approached his vehicle at approximately 3:07 a.m. when they observed his vehicle stopped in the left-hand turn lane of a traffic light at the intersection of Secaucus Road and County Avenue.

Police body camera footage of the incident, obtained via an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, shows that Garces – who received a 90-day license suspension for a DWI in 2015 – was fast asleep with his foot on the brake when police approached his vehicle.

Secaucus Police Officer Orlando Gonzalez, an over 16-year veteran of the force, eventually reluctantly knocked on the driver’s side window to wake him up after shining their flashlights in his face did not yield any results.

He asked Garces if he knew what was going on, to which he initially says he was “by home (though the officer thought he said Hoboken)” stating he lives just two blocks away.

Gonzalez becomes annoyed by the fact that Garces will not directly answer the question, to which Garces says he’s in the midst of a traffic stop.

“You aren’t answering my question: you weren’t driving, I didn’t stop you. You were already stopped, you understand that? You understand what you were doing?”

Garces again repeats he was going straight home, to the dismay of Gonzalez.

“You’re not understanding, you’re not understanding what I’m saying. The reason why I’m here is because you fell asleep! You didn’t say any of that! I just woke you up right now.”

Gonzalez then notes that Garces appears to have slurred speech and asked if he’d been drinking, to which he admitted he had “a couple drinks.”

Prior to starting the field sobriety test, Gonzalez asked what Garces defines as a couple of drinks, to which he says “like two.”

As he begins to put his hands out to his sides without prompting, Gonzalez remarks, “I guess you’ve done this already in the past.”

“Yeah, I work for Union City PD. I do work for Union City PD.”

Gonzalez was not impressed with that response, remarking that he never asked that and wondered why was it brought up.

“I’m just telling you,” Garces replies.

“Ok, what does that have to be with you being checked like this before? Nothing. I guess you want me to take some type of preference or something?” Gonzalez quipped back.

Garces said that he was not looking for preferential treatment, as Gonzalez reminds him that this incident is being recorded.

The Union City police officer was placed under arrest roughly five minutes later after Gonzalez deemed that he had failed the field sobriety test. According to public records, he remains on active duty.

Back in March 2019, HCV noted that Garces’ arrest record, including his prior DWI conviction, raised questions about his hiring.

On August 8th, 2009, when Garces was 20 years old, he was arrested for disorderly conduct for allegedly interfering with a police investigation into a possible low level domestic dispute, according to a copy of the police report.

Robert Cowan, a former Jersey City police chief who now runs Cowan Investigations, said at the time that the hire should not have happened.

“… Proper hiring practices by the hiring authority would have disqualified this candidate because of the aforementioned convictions in his history.”

He is at least the second Union City police officer to be charged with drunk driving since October, with Kevin Roldan being arrested in Hoboken after admitting to drinking three beers and failing a field sobriety test.

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