EAST WENATCHEE – East Wenatchee Police Officer Josh Virnig was driving to city hall on Dec. 14 to receive an award for proactive traffic enforcement when he saw a motorist swerving across the road.
“As I was coming down the hill the driver in front of me was having trouble staying in the lane,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “It was very, very poor lane travel. It was one of those where I had to make that stop because it was so bad.”
Virnig stopped the vehicle on Ninth Street, which happened to be right in front of his own destination: the Night of 1,000 Stars awards, which celebrates DUI enforcement.
After further investigation, Virnig concluded the 38-year-old driver was impaired and arrested him on suspicion of DUI.
The oddity of the situation wasn’t lost on Virnig.
“I thought to myself, ‘It’s ironic that it’s right in front of the award ceremony,’ ” he said. “But anything we can do to take someone who’s impaired off the roadway, that’s the ultimate goal.”
Another officer took the man to police headquarters for blood-alcohol concentration testing because Virnig had an award reception to attend.
At the event, Virnig was given the proactive patrol award, which is awarded every year to an officer who goes above and beyond to make traffic stops and educate the community about traffic laws.
It’s something Virnig said he takes very seriously.
“We’re ultimately trying to prevent people from making the decision to get behind the wheel with any substance in their system,” he said. “The thing we try to reach out and tell people is if you feel different you’re going to drive different.”
As soon as he had his award in hand Virnig was back on duty. He went straight to the police station to finish up the paperwork and transport the man to Chelan County Regional Justice Center.
East Wenatchee Police Chief Randy Harrison saw the traffic stop as he was driving to the event.
“I’m heading for the event, coming up Ninth Street and I see the blue lights there,” he said. “It was rather poetic.”
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