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July 29, 2011
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Andrew Hawkes Highway Drug Interdiction
with Andrew Hawkes

Patrolling interstate highways: Your agency 'culture'

Some states have regulations in place that regulate which type of law enforcement agencies can or cannot work traffic on interstates

Perhaps you work for a county or municipality through which an interstate runs — maybe even several interstate highways. Often in rural areas, towns spring up and grow solely because they are located on a major highway.

In the large metropolitan area where I live and work, this is the case. Large and small cities and towns, with police agencies of all sizes — from manpower of 3,000+ all the way down to five officers — may be located on an interstate. These highways and byways not only provide opportunity for businesses like restaurants, gas stations, liquor stores, and the like to sprout up, but they also provide a public safety issue for the police agencies responsible for them. Accidents, drug haulers, DUIs, speeders, and various other forms of crime and traffic issues arise.

In Texas, we’ve seen large police agencies with multiple interstate highways in their city limits delegate all enforcement on those highways to the county sheriff and rapid transit police in a few instances. I’ll have to admit, seeing a marked unit on an interstate that basically ignores any issues they may or may not see is strange to me, they are simply driving down the highway using the road to commute to their next call just like anyone else on the road. And since this was a highly publicized policy, people disregard the squad car and zip right on past them.

I’ve also witnessed agencies that aggressively issue traffic citations on interstates to “out of towners” but enforce very few traffic laws within the core of their town to avoid agitating the “locals.” Sometimes the truths of the profession are not pretty.

Many Approaches
But how each and every agency “works” the highways are all different. I’d like to get a discussion going and hear some input here. Some agencies are just too busy with neighborhood patrols and responsibilities in the heart of their cities to worry too much about proactive activities on the interstates. On the other hand, many agencies consider enforcement on the highways their number one priority. Many agencies are dictated by what their administration’s philosophy is regarding highway enforcement. That, in turn, is usually determined by the chief or sheriff’s background in law enforcement and also their openness (or lack thereof) to adapt to change.

Some states have regulations in place that regulate which type of law enforcement agencies can or cannot work traffic on interstates.

What is the culture of your department? Are there policies in place to work or not work the interstates, or is it determined by your work loads in your beats? Or perhaps it is determined by peer pressure? Do you or do you not agree with how your agency addresses enforcement on interstate highways? Either way, why is your agency the way it is? This is your chance to present your argument, whichever side you take. If you were the chief or sheriff, what would you tell your troops?


About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 21-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, www.highwaydruginterdiction.com, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.





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