As part of the Pierce County Traffic Safety Task Force, the Gig Harbor Police Department co-hosted a “Bridge to Bridge” Impaired Driving Emphasis Patrol on Feb. 18, partnering with the Kitsap County Sheriff’s department to reach from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to the Hood Canal bridge.
The emphasis patrol was dedicated to the memory of Ashley (Allphin) Riibe, a Gig Harbor High School graduate who in 2015 was killed by an impaired driver while living and working as a nurse in South Dakota.
The dedication included friends and family of Riibe for an emotional moment prior to beginning the emphasis patrol, said Gig Harbor Police Department Lt. Fred Douglas.
“It really gave a personal feel to the whole emphasis of going out to try and prevent impaired driving,” he said.
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The idea behind an emphasis patrol is to saturate an area with law enforcement officers who are specifically looking out for signs of impairment in drivers, allowing other officers on shift to focus their attention in other areas of service.
Prior notice of an emphasis patrol is typical and the combination of an emphasis patrol and warning can, statistically, deter impaired drivers for months following the patrol, said Kelly Busey, Gig Harbor police chief.
DUI will always be a problem. We do these emphasis patrols not only to focus on the problem, but also to educate the public that this will not be tolerated in Pierce County.
Lt. Fred Douglas, Gig Harbor Police Department
Douglas added that the warning also provides transparency to the public.
“We’re not trying to be sneaky or trick anyone,” Douglas said.
Seventeen officers total participated in the emphasis patrol with representatives from the Lakewood, Puyallup, Sumner, Fife, University Place, Fircrest and Milton police departments, the Washington State Patrol, the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and agents from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Also included in the emphasis patrol is the Home Safe Bar Program, where three police chiefs — including Busey and chiefs from Fife and Fircrest police departments — visited local licensed drinking establishments prior to the patrol to meet with managers, inform them of the emphasis and remind them of policies surrounding overservice to customers. Follow-up training offers were also provided.
The emphasis patrol made 209 contacts (or stops) with six arrests for DUI, 182 verbal warnings and 44 citations or infractions issued, including 21 for speeding.
During the emphasis patrol, stops were made based on legal reasons, such as equipment malfunction, infractions committed or signs of impairment in the driver.
“DUI will always be a problem,” Douglas said. “We do these emphasis patrols not only to focus on the problem, but also to educate the public that this will not be tolerated in Pierce County.”