Published Date Written by Gail OberGILFORD — Police Chief Kevin Keenan said he can attribute the nearly 50 percent increase in driving while intoxicated arrests in 2012 to extended training throughout his department.
In 2011, police made 47 arrests for DWI. In 2012, 75 people were arrested for DWI. Sgt. Prosecutor Eric Bredbury said most of those arrested pleaded guilty and he recalls loosing two of the cases in court.
Keenan and Operation Lt. James Leach said Wednesday that a big help to Gilford, and other police departments, was extending the N.H. full-time police academy to 14 weeks and including Intoxilyzer training. Intoxilyzer is the brand name of the type of alcohol breath test used by the Giford Police.
"With the academy lengthened, they come out with more certifications," Keenan said noting that every patrol officer in the department is certified to use the Intoxilyzer.
One thing Keenen found most impressive was the increase in DWI arrests came at the same time that other police activity increased. He said historically, when other calls for service increase, the amount of time patrol officers can spend patrolling and looking for impaired drivers can decrease.
Keenan said all of his patrol officers have gone through additional training for seeking and field testing intoxicated drivers. "The ones who were already certified went through additional training," he said.
Keenan said a DWI report is very detailed and can take a number of hours to complete correctly and accurately. In addition, recent changes in state law require that every DWI arrestee be brought before a judge within two weeks. He added that every arrest report is reviewed thoroughly by Bredbury and a supervisor for accuracy, which helps insure a better conviction rate in court.
To keep up the trend, Keenan said he has included DWI patrol grants requests from the Department of Safety for both 2013 and 2014. Unlike sobriety road blocks, these grants pay wages to police officers to be out on special DWI patrols.
He said the grants get an extra cruiser on the road during peak drinking times and are often more effective than traditional road blocks.
He also said that as more training opportunities arise, all of his officers will be participating.
The department has instituted a "stop, walk and talk" policy that means more officers are getting out of their vehicles and speaking with residents. Keenan said the extra communications has improved the way people perceive the police and has made them more likely to call a report an impaired driver or a suspicious person or vehicle.
"If residents can put a face to a name they're more comfortable calling us," he said.
"Don't think you're wasting our time. Call us. It's our job," he said. "We'd rather get a call and find a raccoon in the garbage than spend the next day investigating a burglary."