LONG BEACH — Councilman Edd Tuttle acknowledged Wednesday that a longstanding drinking problem led to his arrest earlier this week on suspicion of public drunkenness after a dispute with a group of teen-agers aboard a city bus.
Saying he takes "full blame for the incident," Tuttle insisted he would not resign from the council because of the arrest.
"Personally, I think it might be easier to just say the heck with it and resign," Tuttle said during an interview Wednesday at the North Long Beach camera shop he runs with his father. "But ultimately, I think that would be just trying to escape the problem and not dealing with it."
Police said Tuttle was arrested and booked Monday after he got into a tussle with one of the youths and then refused to give police officers his address when they tried to drive him home.
Since last year, Tuttle has refused to make his home address and telephone number public, saying that he fears reprisals from the estranged husband of his girlfriend.
Tuttle, 38, was released from the city's downtown police station after Mayor Ernie Kell posted $100 bail about four hours after the arrest late Monday afternoon.
According to a police report, Tuttle used "numerous ethnic slurs" to antagonize the youths on the bus, spat on one of the teen-agers and told them he was a police officer.
When police arrived on the scene near Long Beach Boulevard and Bixby Road, Tuttle's eyes were "bloodshot and watery, his speech was thick and slurred," and the councilman's breath and person "had the strong odor of alcohol," the report stated.
Tuttle later refused to take either breath or blood tests to determine if he was intoxicated, the police report said.
The councilman said Wednesday that he has had a drinking problem for many years but has only recently attempted to come to grips with it.
"I've been drinking ever since I was in college," Tuttle said. "I've tried to use the consumption of alcohol to handle my problems, but I think all the problems I've had in my life have been related to drinking. Alcohol brings out a lot of anger and aggression in me and aims it in the wrong direction."
Tuttle said that in April he participated in a three-week alcohol treatment program at Memorial Medical Center of Long Beach and refrained from drinking for about three months.
"Then I had a whole myriad of problems dumped into my lap and I caved into the pressure and started drinking again," Tuttle said.
Among those worries, Tuttle said, was an ongoing custody battle with his first wife over their two children. He said he and his second wife are getting a divorce.
'A Very Serious Mistake'
Tuttle said he felt that despite "the personal embarrassment," the outcome of the arrest would "be positive" because it made him realize he was making "a very serious mistake."
"I regret it, I'm ashamed by it and extremely embarrassed," Tuttle said. "I feel I owe all the people involved an apology, including the police, for conducting myself in a bad manner."
Tuttle said he planned to seek professional counseling and continue with the Alcoholics Anonymous session he began in April.
Police on Tuesday morning refused to release the arrest report, saying it was not a public document. Chief Charles Ussery, however, released the report Tuesday afternoon after consulting with City Atty. Robert Parkin.
Ussery said the delay came because police needed "legal clarification" on whether the department could release the report and insisted the matter had been handled exactly as it would have been had Tuttle not been a council member.
"In this case, there was no favoritism shown at all, (we were) just complying with the law," Ussery said.
Tuttle is to be arraigned in Long Beach Municipal Court Sept. 3. City Prosecutor John Vander Lans declined to say whether charges will be filed, saying the arrest is still under review.
Misdemeanors like public drunkenness carry a maximum six-month jail sentence and $500 fine, Vander Lans said. But he said that in public drunkenness cases, the defendant typically does not show up for the arraignment, the bail is forfeited and the case is dropped. Tuttle said he planned to forfeit the $100 bail.
Second Brush With Law
The episode marked the second time this year that Tuttle has had a brush with Long Beach police. In March, police filed a crime report after a bartender complained that Tuttle was displaying a badge and impersonating a police officer at a North Long Beach bar. Long Beach council members are given badges that are similar in appearance to police badges.
No charges were filed in the case. Tuttle said he had used his badge only in an effort to help a woman who had passed out in the bar. The councilman said he did not identify himself as a police officer and told investigators that he was willing to take a polygraph test to buttress his case.
In 1969 Tuttle was arrested for drunken driving. He said Wednesday that he pleaded guilty in that case to a reckless driving charge and paid a fine.