LYNNWOOD — He could spot a drunken driver, even with Def Leppard music blaring in the patrol car.
Officer Mark Brinkman helped keep Washington roads safe and was regarded nationwide as a leader in DUI enforcement. NBC News called him “the nation’s biggest buzz-kill” for his record of drunken-driver arrests.
He was known for being caring and kind to all, including those he arrested.
Brinkman died April 11 after collapsing at his home. He was 55.
He dedicated his career to law enforcement after graduating from the Seattle Police Academy in 1988. Since 1996, he served with the Lynnwood Police Department, where he was guild president.
There was a motorcade for him from Everett to the funeral home in Oak Harbor. A private memorial service will be live-streamed Sunday at Whidbey Assembly of God in Langley, where he was a youth pastor.
Lynnwood Police Chief Jim Nelson said Brinkman “led a life that exemplified service to others.”
“Mark was a very dedicated law enforcement professional, friend, father and husband,” Nelson said in a statement. “Mark’s reach was broad and each part of his life is linked by examples of his selfless service to others. While we are all mourning his loss, we should also celebrate his life and seek to honor both him and his legacy. He will be missed.”
Brinkman was involved in the Target Zero Task Force, a Drug Recognition Expert and a mentor to many officers. He was named the 2016 Law Enforcement Liaison of the Year by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. He was vice president of the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs.
“He had the most DUI arrests in Snohomish County, if not the state, multiple years in a row,” Lynnwood Cmdr. Cole Langdon said. “He had a talent for connecting with people, including criminal suspects. He treated people right and he treated them with dignity. He tried to get them on the path to moving in the right direction. You love the sinner, but don’t like the sin.”
According to officermarkbrinkman.com, a website created by family members, Brinkman wanted to be an officer since he was 5 but was told he was too shy.
Early in his career on Whidbey Island, Brinkman saw a teen blow a stop sign and let it go, only minutes later to go to the crash scene where the car flipped over. The driver was drunk and a female passenger died.
“I held a dying girl in my arms from a DUI accident and that still affects me to this day,” he told The Herald in 2018.
Snohomish County DUI & Target Zero Task Force manager Stacey McShane paired with Brinkman for numerous events over the years. She went on ride-alongs with him.
“He was always relaxed and chatty, and he was always scanning,” McShane said. “He loved rock music, ’80s hair bands, so we’d be listening to it and chatting. All of a sudden he’d whip a U-turn and turn on the lights and go, ‘Oh, I got one.’ He’d pull them over and sure enough, they’d be twice the legal limit. He was like a magician. He had a knack for it that was kind of uncanny. Like he had a radar antenna on his brain.”
He didn’t allow his authority to diminish his people skills.
“Even people he arrested, he was always very nice and cordial,” McShane said. “He would just chat with them. He’d talk about where they were in their lives. He’d try to meet them at their level to talk about the choices they made. He was, ‘I have to arrest you, but how can I help you?’ He wanted to make the impression that the police weren’t always the bad guys. By the end of the processing they’d be chatting like they were old friends.”
KRKO radio host Maury Eskenazi called Brinkman a “superhero.”
“Think about how many lives he saved over the years,” he said.
Brinkman was a regular on a panel of experts on his annual “DUI Awareness Show,” during which Eskenazi pounds back cocktails to show how alcohol impairs the ability to speak clearly, much less operate a car. The format is intended to spark a conversation about the impact of DUI and to hit home its seriousness.
“He was just a cool normal dude,” Eskenazi said. “Last summer, when everything was going down and it was all hatred for officers, I called him and told him I just wanted to call and say I love you.”
The radio show will be named in his honor.