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Man thanks local cop for his 14 years of sobriety

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By Sarah Smith

James Kimbllin was re-born on the Fourth of July.

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It was the day a cop named Scott Parks nailed him for speeding in Park Rapids.

Kimbllin was also plastered to the gills, by his own admission.

He was three times the legal alcohol concentration limit.

He remembers his two kids, ages five and 10, in the back seat, looking at what was happening outside their car. The cops wouldn’t let him talk to them.

The look of terror, bewilderment and uncertainty stays with Kimbllin to this day.

It was 2000.

Kimbllin tried in vain to coerce Parks into letting him check into a motel with his kids until his court appointment.

Parks told him in no uncertain terms that was not possible. Kimbllin belonged in jail.

The defendant watched helplessly as another officer arrived to take his children into foster care. He had royally flunked the field sobriety tests.

He said it was the worst day of his life, his kids watching him being led off in handcuffs.

“It was kind of devastating,” said the Stillwater man.

He’d been building up to that moment steadily for a while.

In the process of getting a divorce, Kimbllin, then 43, spent the day drinking with relatives in Detroit Lakes. He hit the road with his kids, heading for Hackensack. He obviously didn’t make it, then or anytime soon.

“I was a little bit of a mess,” he acknowledged. “I was intoxicated and endangering my children.”

He’d been hitting it hard for years, hoping the alcohol would drown his unhappiness.

It was a long weekend so Kimbllin spent two nights in the Hubbard County jail. He notified his employer that he would be late for work by a day or two.

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Fast forward to 2014. Kimbllin still vividly remembers that year, the handcuffs, his frightened children.

“I haven’t had a drink since,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“I went to treatment,” he said. He went to Hubbard County District Court that Monday, was fitted with an ankle bracelet, fined and put on a work release program. It was a humiliating experience.

He entered a treatment program to help him with his choice not to drink.

And that would be the end of his story except for one small detail.

He’d felt like scum being arrested. But there was something about the polite but firm way Parks had treated him that day that stuck with him.

“He stuck to his guns,” Kimbllin said. “He put me in jail.”

So on July 4, 2001, he started calling Parks every year to thank him. He always left a message for the busy cop and deputy. This year the two connected, voice to voice.

Now chief deputy of the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department, Parks thanks Kimbllin for staying sober.

He vaguely remembers the arrest, though not all the details. Parks remembers that Kimbllin had kids with him.

“It does mean a lot that you’ve had a positive impact on someone’s life,” Parks said. ”For me, we don’t usually hear the outcome” of arrests.

“It makes me feel good.”

Parks said he’s had a lot more experience with drunk drivers who haven’t gone to treatment, repeat offenders that are back in court.

Kimbllin said the annual calls will continue. He’s grateful a polite but firm cop was looking out for him that day.

He recently retired from a 33-year career with a power company. He remarried.

He’s spoken to treatment groups and helped others gain the peaceful sobriety he lives with.

Life is good. 

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Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers Hubbard County, courts and breaking news.

(218) 732-3364
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