Stacey McShane was a 911 dispatcher for more than two decades when a DUI tragedy close to home spurred her involvement in traffic safety. Today she is Target Zero Manager in Region 10 – Snohomish County. Recently Stacey let us know about a grant program entering its second year in Snohomish County to help maintain DUI training.
Q: Agencies in your region cut back on training – can you tell us the background on why that happened?
A: Snohomish County was hit really hard during the recession when the housing market went upside down, which led to slashed local government budgets. For law enforcement that meant a lot of training went by the wayside. Many of our agencies, especially some of our bigger agencies, stopped renewing their blood alcohol machine certifications. And once that lapses they’re required to complete a 16-hour class to get it back. And that just makes the problem worse since it creates the need for more training and just makes a bigger budgetary hole.
Q: What was the impact on traffic safety?
A: There were fewer officers certified to do sobriety testing, fewer arrests and fewer court filings. The data show a huge drop in DUI arrests in our county over a five-year period.
The other issue is the time it takes to process a DUI arrest. Five-to-ten years ago it took about an hour, today it can average three-to-five hours. So, when you have a patrol officer at an agency with minimal staffing now taken off the road for several hours, it really impacts the agency because they can’t process the 911 calls that are coming in.
Q: How did you solve this problem?
A: We secured a grant to cover the BAC training – both the full 16-hour training for those who needed it and renewal training for those who hadn’t had their certification expire. That took a big burden off of our agencies.
Q: Was it just BAC training covered in the grant?
A: No, we included Standard Field Sobriety Test training, Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) training. For next year we’ve added training from a traffic resource prosecutor.
Q: You are coming close to the end of your first year, has the program been successful?
A: We had 15 people go through the ARIDE class. We put 28 people through the basic BAC class. Not all of those officers were on overtime on the grant. Agencies really stepped up where they could to send officers on duty. The refresher training is offered on and off throughout the year. It’s been a tremendous relief of the burden on the local agencies. Our current grant is for $50,000. The entire sheriff’s office training budget here is $90,000. So, to even bring in $10,000 to $15,000 to the sheriff’s office for training is a big help.
Q: What about the time requirement you mentioned for a DUI arrest. How does the training grant help with that issue?
A: Our hope is that by getting these officers certified and running more DUI’s they will get more efficient at it, within legal constraints. We also think it will address some of the concerns we heard from the prosecutor’s office about the quality of filings, which we think will improve as officers gain more experience.
Q: If another region wanted to implement a similar grant, what advice would you give them?
A: Prepare for a lengthy planning process. We had to establish memorandums of understanding (MOU) with the cities and get that through legal. Each MOU had to go through the individual city councils and that took time on their end. It took almost an entire quarter to get that straightened out. Now we have a template as we go into our second year, so it’s just a matter of updating some of the legal language.
You also want to make sure you write some extra time into the funding to cover the Target Zero Manager’s time, because it generates more work to develop and then maintain a tracking process.
Q: How did you get involved with traffic safety?
A: My husband’s cousin was killed by a drunk driver just a few days before his high school graduation. At that time I got involved with MADD. I was doing volunteer work with them when this position opened up. I decided it was time to change careers and do something I had become passionate about. Once you stand at the grave of a 17-year-old kid on the day he’s supposed to have his graduation party, it’s pretty impactful.
Have a success story you want to share? Contact Erica Stineman at firstname.lastname@example.org