By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski
HERMISTON The Hermiston Police Department has been awarded the 2004 DUII Multi-Disciplinary Training Task Force Award for City Police DUII Enforcement Agency-of-the-Year.
The award is presented by the State of Oregon to agencies that have initiated or accomplished an effective DUII (driving while under the influence of intoxicants) enforcement program. The program includes education, prevention, or community involvement. In addition to the department being nominated, Officer Will Jons was nominated for his efforts in stopping drivers under the influence. He did not win, however.
Chief Dan Coulombe says he is proud of his department.
"It is nice to get recognition from the state," Coulombe said.
Through education programs such as D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), School Resource officers and Neighborhood Watch, Hermiston officers are able to be more proactive with drugs and alcohol prevention.
In 2004, the Hermiston Police Department had 1,129 drug charges compared to 811 in 2003. In a department-wide effort to reduce the numbers of drivers under the influence, 20 officers had arrests for DUII in 2004. Coulombe cited the continued aggressive drug interdiction efforts by the department as the prime reason more people are being caught with illegal drugs and/or alcohol.
The department received a DUII grant which allowed extra DUII enforcement in the city, Coulombe said.
"The grant allowed us to concentrate on Highway 395," Coulombe said.
At least one officer (Officer Victor Gutierrez) has attended a specialized training in drug recognition, while another will start training soon.
"The training better equips the patrol to recognize (the symptoms of drug use)," Coulombe said.
The training allows officers to recognize the effects a drug has on an individual. Coulombe says he had two officers apply this time but only one, Officer Jons, was accepted.
"It is a very challenging, specialized course," Coulombe said. "The ultimate goal is to get more officers trained."