Sheriff forms DWI task force

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(Lt. Bill Davis/Bossier Sheriff’s Office) Bossier Sheriff’s Deputy Wood of the newly-established DWI Enforcement Unit, conducts a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, which gauges the driver’s ability to track a moving object with their eyes, during a Standard Field Sobriety Test, in order to determine any impairment. 

The Bossier Sheriff’s Office has implemented a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Enforcement Unit to remove impaired drivers from the roadways.

The goal is to keep drivers compliant with the law and rid local roadways of impaired drivers.

“We want to emphasize that driving under the influence will not be tolerated,” said Sgt. Jeff Pleasants, supervisor of the Traffic Unit.  “Innocent people get hurt, and nothing good comes out of impaired driving.”

Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington said residents have voiced their concerns over the traffic, whether it’s congestion, reckless drivers or people driving under the influence.

“When you work the streets and see accidents that have been caused by a drunk or otherwise impaired driver in which they injure or kill themselves or others, it makes you even more committed to keeping them off the road,” Whittington said.

In 2014, Bossier deputies made 99 DWI arrests. Deputies have made 88 DWI arrests  so far in 2015.

Pleasants, a 12-year-veteran of the Bossier Sheriff’s Office, said he would rather not see any traffic citations or arrests.

“We’re not necessarily out looking to write people tickets or make arrests.  Sometimes we have to because that’s part of our job, but if we gain compliance with just our presence in an area, like working a red light detail at a major intersection where we have a lot of crashes, people see us, word gets out, and that’s good,” said Pleasants.

Dep. Ryan Rhodes, member of the DWI Enforcement Unit, said his role in enforcing DWI laws is “to protect those who can’t protect themselves,” since there aren’t necessarily warning signs or heads-up notice that a drunk or impaired driver is on the roadways.

“When you arrest an impaired driver, you never really know what kind of immediate impact, if any, you are going to have,” said Rhodes, a 9-year veteran of the Bossier Sheriff’s Office.  “You never know when or where that person is going to crash, and removing that impaired driver from the road may have just saved the life of your family, your friend’s family or a stranger’s family.”

Sobriety checkpoints often aid in DWI enforcement and are conducted at random times of the year at various locations in the parish.

“When we conduct sobriety checkpoints, we realize people get on Facebook and Twitter, and word quickly gets out,” said Pleasants.  “Thirty minutes after we’re set up, they’re texting people to say, “Hey, there’s a checkpoint here.”

Pleasants added that it’s okay because the key is to keep drunk drivers off the roadways.

“If they don’t have to make any DWI arrests, that’s still a good thing. Once again, compliance is the goal.”

In 2014, deputies conducted four sobriety checkpoints and screened 1,787 vehicles.  From those checkpoints, deputies made 12 DWI arrests and issued 41 citations for various traffic violations.

The BSO warned drivers that if they are driving impaired, they will be caught.

“There are drunk drivers out all hours of the night and day,” said Pleasants.  “They’re out right now.  I’ve arrested people at 6 in the morning, and I’ve arrested them at noon.  And it’s not just alcohol.

“We are starting to see more and more people overmedicating themselves, taking prescription medicines or getting meds illegally,” Pleasants noted.  “And you can be convicted of DWI from the impairment of prescribed medicines or illegal drugs.”

Sheriff Whittington’s message on driving impaired is one of public safety, and he reminds drivers that it’s just not worth it.

“You may get away with it for a little while, but we’re going to catch you.  You may feel you don’t have any concern for your own life, but please consider the lives of others,” Sheriff Whittington said.  “We’re not saying you can’t drink…we’re just saying you can’t drink and drive.”