Spokane Police Dept. looking to keep DUI enforcement officers as grant expires

Spokane Police Dept. looking to keep DUI enforcement officers as grant expires

In an effort to pursue statewide Target Zero goals, the Spokane Police Department has re-applied for a grant that would pay for one full-time DUI enforcement officer. According to Sergeant John Griffin, who oversees the traffic unit, they have received the funding and it just awaits the mayor’s approval. The funding covers one officer, and the department will keep an additional DUI enforcement officer to allow for seven days worth of coverage.

The grant comes from the Washington Traffic Safety commission and is for a total of around $140,000.

The city states in its proposal, found in the city council schedule, that the DUI enforcement officer grant is needed because city wide DUI arrests have declined by 36.5 percent while the county’s has only declined by 4.5 percent in the same time period. The department says the decline is not because of a decrease in drunk drivers in the city, instead they say its because of low staffing levels and an increase of calls across the board, which hasn’t allowed them to pro-actively patrol for impaired drivers.

The 36.5 percent decline is measured by taking the DUI arrests from 2012-2016 (368 of them) and then comparing it to they five year period of 2007-2011 (580).

The grant funds the enforcement officer’s salary and benefits of $125,000 in addition to overtime. The remaining money would also go towards an information campaign to educate the public on DUI related topics.

“We are a big city, a great city, we have great places to go out, have fun, but at the same time at the end of the night, we want everyone to get home safely,” said DUI Enforcement Officer John Yen. “Drink responsibly, have fun, but don’t drink and drive, don’t take the chance.”

He cautions folks that impairment behind the wheel also applies to marijuana and prescription medications.

“A lot of people think if I am prescribed it, I can drive with it,” he said, “that is not true, you can still be held accountable the way someone with marijuana or alcohol is.”