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DUI arrests: A pain now to prevent tragedy later

One serial killer claims the lives of more than 15,000 Americans every year

If there was a team of serial killers, slaughtering 15,000 men, women and children every year, can you imagine what the unprecedented law enforcement response toward stopping these killers would be? That is the number of Americans, who die each year, who have the misfortune of crossing the path of an impaired driver.

Any officer who has worked the road can conjure up the emotions felt, when you confronted the driver on a stop, whose odor of intoxicants on his breath smacked you in the nose like a punch drunk fighter. Then came the dazed clueless look accented by blood shot eyes as the driver asks, “What did you shtop me for offisher, I washn’t shpeeding?”

Which one of these best describes the corresponding feeling you had at that moment?

Arresting the impaired driver may be a hassle followed by too much paper work. But it’s well worth it because it is the most proactive, life-saving traffic arrest a police officer can make. (AP Photo)
Arresting the impaired driver may be a hassle followed by too much paper work. But it’s well worth it because it is the most proactive, life-saving traffic arrest a police officer can make. (AP Photo)

Officer Number One: “Yes! I got one! SWEET!”

Officer Number Two: “Damn, here comes two hours of hassle and nothing to show for it but two more hours of paper work!”

Regardless, which best represents your feelings, you made the arrest and during the processing, the driver looked at you sincerely at some time and asked, “Why aren’t you out arreshting real criminals? Don’t you have anything better to do?”

Nothing Better to Do
“There is nothing better you have to do because for every 100 arrests for impaired driving an officer makes, he (she) saves at least one person from death or great bodily harm.”

You will not see that number substantiated in any study. It is what I told myself throughout my career to keep myself excited about the hunt.

There is no disputing that the people you arrest will be prevented from killing or maiming on the night of the arrest. Beyond that night many of the chronically impaired will be undeterred and will continue to drive impaired. However according to at least one MADD study two thirds of first time offenders never drive while impaired again.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the average driver that drives impaired does so 80 times a year. Therefore it can be reasoned that since two thirds of the first time offenders you arrest will be prevented from driving 80 times a year for the rest of their driving lives you literally alter the future by making this arrest. It only stands to reason that a percentage of the people you arrest, who choose to stop driving because of that arrest, if allowed to continue unchecked would have killed or seriously injured someone eventually.

This is how by aggressively pursuing the impaired driver you absolutely will save lives!

There is a bonus for police officers, who pursue the impaired driver. They will discover many impaired drivers are in possession of contraband; on their way to a crime they are about to commit, or returning from a crime they have just committed. Still others will be revoked, violating parole, or probation restrictions by drinking and driving.

Everyone Can Make a Difference
If you are a retired officer, plain clothes detective, off duty cop, probation or corrections officer you can make an additional impact by calling them in, when you see them off duty or on. Citizens often call them in, but too often wish to remain anonymous, which means officers have to not only locate the vehicle, but also develop their own reasonable suspicion for the stop.

When a named credible complainant such as you calls in the impaired driver, that call alone can serve as reasonable suspicion for the stop.

Professional Courtesy
There is another way to help make a difference. You have all seen the tapes where a police officer is running the off duty cop through sobriety tests and ultimately makes the difficult decision to arrest. That triggers a competing chorus of praise and outrage for or against the officer making the tough call.

Let’s put an end to putting our fellow officers in that position by arranging for safe transportation in advance every time we choose to trip the light (beer) fantastic. Real professional courtesy means never putting another cop in a difficult situation like this.

Years ago, a defense attorney identified an arresting officer as having made more arrests on his department than anyone had ever made before for OWI. The attorney leapt to the attack and asked, “Why is it that you so aggressively pursue people like my client, who are just trying to make their way home from a long hard day?”

While the jury watched, the officer took a long deep breath looking sadly into the distance as the horrible ugly mental movie clips played in his mind and he answered, “Because I have personally witnessed the carnage inflicted on innocents by intoxicated drivers and found that I could save lives by arresting as many of them as possible.” The driver was convicted.

The bad news here is that every street officer has to bear witness to the carnage. The good news is that every officer does not have to stand by and just clean up the twisted metal and broken bodies as well as make the heart wrenching notifications. You can aggressively seek them out, detect them and arrest them before they kill.

Now go out and find some DUI stops and save some lives. Remember to be careful, while you are doing this. Persons under the influence of drugs and alcohol are not only dangerous to the community, they are unpredictable and dangerous to the officers who share the highways with them and arrest them.

Arresting the impaired driver may be a hassle followed by too much paper work. But it’s well worth it because it is the most proactive, life-saving traffic arrest a police officer can make.

Happy and safe hunting!

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