Officers honored for DUI ticketing
Keeping drunken or drugged drivers off North Idaho roads takes the combined vigilance of all the area law enforcement agencies.
And to honor their efforts, the top DUI-ticketing officers in each of the seven local agencies who issued the most DUI tickets throughout the year were singled out recently at an annual awards luncheon.
On Wednesday afternoon, more than 40 people, including officers and their families, administrators and representatives from outside agencies, gathered in the basement of the Idaho Transportation Department for the annual Top Cop banquet to recognize eight officers and their efforts in keeping impaired drivers off area roads last year, while also raising public awareness on the risks of driving under the influence.
The award recipients were chosen from Region One law enforcement agencies: Idaho State Police, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department, Coeur d’Alene Tribal Police, and the Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Rathdrum and Spirit Lake police departments. Two ISP officers were honored. In total, 2,497 DUI tickets were issued by the seven law enforcement agencies in 2008, with the eight Top Cop officers recording more than 300 of those tickets.
The event, which was first held in 2005, is put on in part by the Kootenai County Substance Abuse Council, a nonprofit group that focuses on educating people about the dangers of impaired driving. The council is funded by the fees DUI-ticketed drivers must pay in attending a substance abuse class.
“This is our way of honoring a law enforcement officer from each local agency for the work they do to keep our roads safer,” said Anita Kronvall, director of the substance abuse council, as she helped prepare a buffet of sandwiches, salads chips and beverages. “It’s just our way of showing our appreciation.”
The Top Cops are presented with gift cards and certificates, and their names are placed on plaques that hang in the ISP regional headquarters. Kronvall said the banquet is just one small way to thank the officers, especially since every DUI arrest means a probable life saved.
“Each person that they take off the road during a night probably saved someone’s life,” she said.
Even though many of the officers at the banquet said they don’t keep track of how many DUI tickets they hand out throughout the year, they said it’s still an honor to be selected. For Holly Branch, a four-time Top Cop winner and ISP officer who issued 35 tickets to impaired drivers last year, she said preventing those under the influence of alcohol or drugs from getting behind the wheel is a priority for every officer and for the community at large.
“There are a lot of officers who do a fantastic job in securing DUIs,” Branch said. As for the awards, she added, “It just means that we are proud to get the impaired drivers off the road, and people can go home knowing that we took another drunk driver off the streets.”
As a mother who lost a daughter to an impaired driver when he slammed into her vehicle almost seven years ago, Kronvall said honoring these officers means more to her than recognizing their individual efforts. It honors the officers’ families, as well as those left in the wake after an impaired driver chooses to get behind the wheel.
“I know what they go through, I know what they put into it, and it’s my way of telling them they are doing a good job,” she said about the officers. And, she continued, “for me personally, it’s a way for making my daughter’s death not a total loss.”
Reach correspondent Jacob Livingston by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.