Thursday, January 1, 2009

Record smashed

The 34 year old record for DWI arrests by the Lincoln Police Department has fallen. Back during the year Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford was sworn in, LPD arrested 1,992 drunk drivers. In 2008 that record was finally broken. We closed the year with 2,253 DWI arrests.

Back in 1974 when the old record was set, an Alcohol Safety Action Program squad of six officers made over half the total DWI arrests, and conducted every one of the chemical tests with a gas chromatograph. Those officers worked from 7:00 PM to 4:30 AM, and had court appearances on virtually every weekday, beginning at 9:00 AM and often including 10:30 AM and 2:00 AM sessions, as well. It was a brutal schedule. Interestingly, of the six ASAP squad officers in 1974, three are still members of the Lincoln Police Department: Jon Morris, Steve Wetzel, and Mike Garnett.

Whether the breaking of the record is good news or bad depends on your point of view about the cause. If the cause is more drunk driving, the news is bad. If the cause is more police enforcement, I'd say it's good. Frankly, I think a variety of factors are at work.

The threshold for DWI has fallen from .10% to .08%. For those under the age of 21, the threshold has been sent at .02%. The population has increased steadily: we have about 70,000 more citizens. The number of retail alcohol outlets has more than tripled. Though the process has waxed and waned over the years, at present, the time involved in processing a drunk driving arrest for police officers is comparatively reasonable. Overall traffic stops and traffic citations have increased. The public support for drunk driving enforcement--particularly the efforts of MADD has certainly caused a difference. All of these factors have influenced the number of DWI arrests.

The smashing of the 1974 record represents a monumental effort by our officers. There is nothing a police officer does that is as certain to impact public safety as arresting a drunk driver. The officers who contributed to this result, and their coworkers and families who supported those efforts, should all be proud.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chief,
Happy New Year first off.
Using the old .10% as the standard instead of the new.08% would probably make a huge difference in the numbers correct?

Gun Nut

Anonymous said...

There's more to the good news bad news angle than the points of view you mentioned, Chief. I also have to wonder what we're ever going to do about the fact that so many of these arrests seem to be for second, third, and even more offenses. Sure, it's great that we're arresting more drunk drivers. But, if it's the same people over and over, what good is it doing? Maybe the increase is due to the officers keeping an eye out for certain individuals with prior convictions. Any spreadsheet stats on how many of these arrests are not first offenses?

Anonymous said...

Chief Casady,

I see you have found time to blog, but I sent you an email 2 days ago regarding an issue that you have NOT responded to as of 10:00am this morning. I'm the one that said I was the biggest fan of LPD and how a young flippant officer treated me with disrespect. Thats funny how I can't get a return email on that. Thank goodness a Sgt. returned my call even though I didn't want that. I wanted to tell the Chief of Police the incident of how arrogant your young officer is. Yes, as I told you in my original email, I was not lady-like myself. But when you have an officer who went out of his way to be rude versus trying to calm the situation down, he just made it worse. Another question I have, Is why do business owners get by with the stuff they do? They can disturb my peace but I can't disturb theirs? Peoples Health Center is a joke! Its VERY unfortunate the people with no insurance gets STUCK going there. Thank goodness I have insurance, it was my daughter that I was sticking up for! Like I said to Sgt. Hurusa (sp) I am still a BIG LPD Fan even after that which I also told you in the email I sent directly to you Chief. I just am VERY disappointed I never heard back from you. Sincerely, Andrea

Anonymous said...

Do you think that citizens calling in on their cell phones to report possibly impaired or definitely reckless drivers are making it harder to get away with driving drunk? 20 years ago, you generally had to pull over and use a payphone to drop a dime on someone you saw bouncing off curbs. Now, people will dial 911, and some will even follow the weaver (hanging back a ways) and keep on the phone with the dispatcher until one of your cruisers can vector in and do the traffic stop. That's not a bad force multiplier.

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious how many officers actually made at least one DWI arrest, the most arrest made by one officer. Are there a couple of officers(past or present) that really made an impact in the past 10 years. I recall that there used to be some type of competition between teams or officers. Finally....what percentage of these arrests were actually convicted for DWI or Refusal? Thanks!

Doublebanker said...

Not too sure it is a good thing to have a record number of arrests. Glad to see they are off the street, but kinda disappointed there ARE that many

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut-

Yes, that's clearly a factor. I hope I mentioned that in the original post.

10:09-

I don't have it at my fingertips today, but the Department of Motor Vehicles has great data on multiple offenders--it's huge. I'm an advocate for forfeiture of the motor vehicle for two+ offenders, and for mandatory ignition interlocks.

Andrea-

Sorry, but I never received your email to my knowledge. If you sent it to the department's generic email address, instead of my personal email, it might have been routed to the appropriate supervisor. Obviously, we get a huge amount of email and snail-mail, much of which is addressed to me, so we have to sort that somehow. You should feel free to call me if you want to discuss this. I'll be at the duty command office from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM today (441-72622). I'm in and out, but the best time to find me at that number is between 2:50 PM and 3:50 PM, or between 6:20 PM and 6:50 PM, and back in my own office on Monday morning (441-7237).

10:17-

Good point. I'll add that to my list. You're absolutely right.

10:30-

Can't tell you the conviction rate without some research, but I suspect it is higher than for most any other crime. As far as how many officers made DWI arrests in 2008, that one I can answer: 152. I was surprised it was that many, given the fact that a large majority of the arrests occur on the late night shift. Of current officers, there are a bunch who have quite a record of DWI enforcement. I don't think you would have anyone that could come close to current department members Jon Morris, Steve Wetzel, and Mike Garnett. In 1974-75 they were part of a six-person squad that made somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 on-view DWI arrests. Since they worked in two-person units, that was really three cars that produced over half the department's DWI arrests during those years.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I didn't know if cell phone tips were a significant factor or not, that was just a hunch, and the Magic 8-Ball indicated "As I see it, Yes", so I thought I'd throw it out there. Do you keep stats on how many of LPD's 2008 DUI arrests were precipitated by one or more of those citizen tips via cell phone?

Anonymous said...

Why is there not have a DWI unit now? like a 3rd shift extension of the traffic unit?

carp said...

Chief,

The officer's who contributed to the new record are very proud. But, also frustrated. Very few Captains actually appreciate the hard word and sacrifices that are made by these officer's. In fact only one team captain will support officer's in this regard. Officer's work very hard and deserve to receive a pat on the back by a supervisor for arresting drunks and saving citizens.

Anonymous said...

i see your buddies dj heavy hitter and KB from OB pros and oasis barber shop.......is doing amatuer night at WC downtown...per facebook events........have fun with that.....your welcome for the info...keep cleaning up the scene its looks like its getting dirty around there...maybe the IRS needs to be called about not paying form 10 use tax on income made from the hip hop events admission charges........


happy new years!!!
your friend...

Tom Casady said...

7:50-

When you create a specialized unit--any specialized unit--the officers that staff it have to come from somewhere else. I have no somewhere elses from which to draw. They've been gone for a few decades. Not to be redundant all over again, but we're the smallest police force (per capita) in Nebraska, 180th smallest of 194 in Nebraska and all bordering States--right in between Thornton, CO and Marion, IA.

Carp-

Appropriate screen name.

I tolerate the hobby of anonymous captain-bashing on the Chief's Corner pretty well, unless it gets personal, but this one is off base. The entire management staff of this department supports DWI enforcement. I'd venture that virtually every captain on LPD (when he or she was a street officer on the appropriate shifts) was among the department's top producers himself or herself.

When you're a captain, you are also responsible for managing an overtime budget, and for ensuring that officers do not become so focused on one aspect of their job they engage in that activity to the detriment of the remainder. Ensuring balanced use of resources is not a lack of support; that's their job. Ensuring that a disproportionate amount of the Team's overtime is not enuring to the benefit of a couple officers is not lack of support; it's their job.

Acknowledging good work, making sure that sergeants are issuing commendations for such, and nominating sustained excellence for department awards are also among their duties. So if you feel that your excellence has not been appropriately rewarded, perhaps you need to talk to your sergeant or captain and let them know of your dissappointment. Or, you can certainly talk to me. I guess you can't do that anonymously, but I've got a couple decades' experience in protecting the most intimate secrets in the City.

Enzo said...

Carp-
As I see it, the Captain's did support this detail. They do not, however, support someone who dodges calls and does not pull their weight so they can be out of service on DUI's all night, every night. You are a part of a TEAM and we are generalist officers, not DUI officers. Perhaps we should create 3rd shift traffic unit that could focus on DUI's and such but you know how short we are on the street and know that we cannot afford to place people in specialized positions and take away from street coverage. A lot of street officers would like to spend their entire shift hunting warrants, dope, burglars, or whatever other activity they enjoy but we also have calls to take and beat partners to back up. Unlike you, we each try to pull our own weight even though our interests may be focused towards one thing.

As for commendations getting handed out-I agree, some teams hand them out more sparsely than others. A lot of good work goes unnoticed at LPD but you have to realize that's really not what you signed on for. For example, the Narcotics Unit almost never sees commendations. I don't know if their Captain doesn't believe in them or what but they all continue to do their job and don't throw in the towel just because they're not getting patted on the back up there. Heck, the only commendation I'm aware of anyone getting in that unit went straight to the Captain and was then never passed down to the unit who really did all of the work.
Just because they aren't handing out commendations doesn't mean they're not supportive of what their Officers are doing. Some Officers find their work rewarding in and of itself and don't need some piece of paper to reinforce that. I'm sorry you never reached that point in your career.
Perhaps guarding statues is more rewarding. I can only assume so.

Anonymous said...

Do you think it would be good to have all captains work 1 shift (night) per month- taking calls like normal Ofc's and sgts? Duty command Spts excluded, the night shift duty's actually get out there on a nightly basis and arrive when Ofc's call for help- they know what it's like out there. I think that would be very beneficial. For instance, if a captain hasn't made a high risk traffic stop, or chased a bad guy through back yards in the last 10 years, maybe they are too far removed from the street and the way that things have evolved in the past 20 years to present day to realize that if you are on a traffic stop, and the driver exits the seat and immediately turns and begins to dig into the veh, drawing your firearm is an appropriate action- "This isn't Omaha" but Officers are shot in much smaller depts than this, and we share the same bad guys... For example, Isaiah Bingham, was one of two people shot in Omaha on Christmas day per the Omaha world herald... we have many dealings with him....but, this isn't Omaha...

Anonymous said...

A couple comments and a question...I was a lucky one 25 years ago who drank a lot in college and drove, but never was "caught" or involved in an accident. Looking back I was quite stupid to say the least. My 20 something daughter took my strict teachings to heart and has done very well with her "I'm the designated driver" approach with her friends. I'm proud as heck...

My question deals with something I read about in another post regarding a "license plate bulb out" giving officers of the past reasons to stop drivers. Lately I've noticed so many people driving with fog lights on...all the time. It's really (in my opinion) almost as bad as high beams, but obviously there's no laws regarding fog lights? For some reason I always thought there was and (maybe mistakenly) told my daughter it was illegal. Are they legal all the time or is this one of those "license plate bulb out" reasons someone can get pulled over for?

Scott

Anonymous said...

I read in the paper today about the new law regarding ignition locks for DUI convictions. The article did not make it clear to me how these will actually help since it seems to be an option for those convicted. Why would anyone choose the expense and inconvenience of having the ignition lock installed when they can simply drive on a suspended license like they always have in the past?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't object to the BAC limit being set to 0.02 for adults as well. I wouldn't want the BAC of my airline pilot or my eye surgeon to be even that high. That might greatly surprise anyone that knew me a couple of decades ago when I was young and stupid, but zero is the only acceptable value if you're going to be driving, but 0.02 would probably leave enough wiggle room for the "brown bottle flu", a piece of grandma's rum cake, and such things.

Anonymous said...

Enzo...you sound to me like a bunch of officers that cry about how many calls they take. If, however, you are on third shift most of your calls are handled by officer (HBO). A DWI requires a great amount of paperwork as opposed to very little for the average third shift call. Chief, I should have probably come to you but, let's face it, an officer or coming in & spilling the beans about a captain ordering a cutback on DWI arrests due to overtime probably would only result in the officer having a shortened career. I believe you do support the enforcement of DWIs but with overtime being such an issue sacrifices are made by some of your captains.

Anonymous said...

Carp
As a vetran officer with over 10 years on the department I can only hope that you can find a way to develop self-satisfaction from the work that you do and the investigations that you complete. I understand that it may be a little less fulfilling when the only result of your investigations is printed out by a machine and not developed after hours, days, or even weeks of your own work.

Day Lady said...

Anonymous @ 5:12 PM
Enzo had it right, and you just don't seem capable of visualizing the big picture. I'm gonna guess that you've got 5 or less years of experience, and awaiting you (assuming you stay despite the hostile overtime pay environment)is a whole lot of professional enlightment.
DUI arrests are important, but they hardly define 3rd shift patrol. I know....I was one of those DUI arrest kings many moons ago. I graduated from that traffic hound mindset and moved on, balancing the enforcement of drunk driving laws along with the myriad other 'crimes' that happen nightly. I now work days....and believe you me, I get to see the criminals handiwork every morning. I'd be willing any day to trade a school burglary investigation, including the reports and ensuing follow-up for 2 weeks of DUI reports, but I'm guessing I won't get any takers.
We all know there is a comfort zone related to traffic enforcement. Expanding your investigative horizons can be rewarding (maybe not financially). Consider it...

Bikeguy said...

Anyone get DWI for riding a bicycle while drunk? What would cause an officer to cite a cyclist for such a thing, and is it really a danger for anyone besides the rider?

Anonymous said...

Well, bicyclists can (and sometimes do) cause accidents by not yielding the right of way, violating traffic control devices, and so forth. Do you think they are more likely to do these dumb things more when drunk or when sober? It could be like hitting a deer, they can come straight through your windshield, and a lot of riders weigh more than a whitetail doe.

I bet the Chief could give the number of car vs bicycle accidents in 2008 that were the fault of the rider.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any 2007-2008 data, so I went back to this post for a link to the 2006 numbers. It seems that for 2006, in Lincoln, there were 121 motor vehicle vs bicycle accidents. At least 30 of that 121 were the fault of the cyclist, and probably more than that when you consider that the NHTSA might not consider crashes where a cyclist rider crosses a street from sidewalk-to-sidewalk using a crosswalk. In Lincoln, if a cyclist uses the crosswalk, they have no right of way, and so here, that type of crash is always the fault of the cyclist.

If you want a pedestrian's right-of-way, get off the bike and walk it across. If you want a vehicle's right-of-way at an intersection, stay in the street, and don't ride on the sidewalk.

Bike Guy said...

So 1 in 4 car vs. bike accidents are the biker's fault. 75% is the car driver's fault, not good, but not surprising.

I didn't realize bikes lose right of way in a crosswalk, thanks for the info.

My question was: Anyone get DWI for riding a bicycle while drunk?

Would they then lose their driver's license and be forced to ride their bike?

Bikeguy said...

re: where a cyclist rider crosses a street from sidewalk-to-sidewalk using a crosswalk. In Lincoln, if a cyclist uses the crosswalk, they have no right of way, and so here, that type of crash is always the fault of the cyclist.

...so if I have the walk signal and the green light, and a car pulls up and broadsides me in the cross walk, it's my fault? Or is it illegal for the car to go into the crosswalk in the first place? ...what if they're turning right on red?

I ride a lot and almost get hit the most in the crosswalk.

Tom Casady said...

Bikeguy-

Sorry, I think I missed your earlier question about DWI on a bike. Can't happen. The laws (both City and State) specify that the drunk driver must be operating a motor vehicle.

Regarding crosswalks, it's complicated, but you're essentially right: a cyclist in a crosswalk is not a pedestrian (unless he or she is walking with the bike), and does not enjoy the right-of-way a pedestrian has when legally in the crosswalk. This would make a good topic for a future post, where I could explain the particulars and link the relevant ordinances.