DUI enforcement in the County
July 31, 2009
Just last night, at the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce members' meeting, a man approached me with a story about a recent DUI on McHenry County roads.
His daughter was driving home from Woodstock one night and followed a suspected drunk up Route 47 past the courthouse and north out of Woodstock on Route 47. The drunk was all over the road. She called the Sheriff's Department and reported the drunk and then continued to follow him.
The drunk driver continued north and then west and then north again. No deputy was available to respond and intercept the drunk. The drunk then turned back east on 173 and then south again, where the drunk passed a parked police car from Hebron. The man who was telling me this story wondered whether the Hebron officer had been monitoring Sheriff's Department radio communications.
The drunk nearly caused numerous accidents. Even as the drunk passed the Hebron police car, still being followed by this man's daughter, the police car did not pull out.
I think there was a happy ending to the story. The drunk stopped within sight of the Hebron police car and began backing up in the roadway, and I think that's when the Hebron officer got involved.
At one point the dispatcher told the daughter, or the girl's father who was relaying information from his daughter, that "the deputies were very busy that night."
This is not intended to bash deputies or dispatchers, but communication is the key in a situation like this. Motorists are encouraged to report drunk drivers. We hear this all the time. But what happens when they do?
Most motorists will not be familiar with how busy dispatchers can be or how sparsely the County might be staffed with sheriff's deputies at a given hour. Or whether a deputy is already tied up on a call or at some great distance from the drunk driver.
Concerned citizens want help when they call. I know how I have felt "brushed off", when I have called to report an impaired or reckless driver. When I want a driver ticketed and am prepared to go to court and testify, and so inform the dispatcher at the beginning of the call, I want to hear more than, "Thank you for calling." Usually, they don't ask my phone number, although I'm pretty sure it appears on their consoles. But do they save it?
One night I insisted that the dispatcher take my name and phone number and call me if they could get the driver stopped. Huntley PD was monitoring radio calls and grabbed the reckless driver. Dispatch did call me, and I drove from Woodstock to Huntley, where the driver was charged. I showed up in court for his trial, and he pled guilty.
Refresher training for dispatchers and more publicity for motorists will create a stronger partnership between concerned motorists and the sheriff's department. Deputies can play a large public relations role in this effort.
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