Lieutenant Scott Roach
St. Louis County Police Department
In August of 2017, the State of Missouri passed House Bill 4 which reduced annual state funding for DWI checkpoints from $20 million down to $1.00. Confusingly, one of the representatives who pushed this and helped make it happen is a former police officer from Missouri. His primary argument was checkpoints are a waste of money due to the low number of arrests that resulted from them. Statistics and other data disproved the argument.
What he did not consider and refuses to acknowledge is static checkpoints, no matter the results, are deterrents and send a clear message that police agencies still do DWI enforcement. We felt a strong deterrent was still warranted considering in 2015 more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities in our state were caused by an impaired driver.
In the early days of social media and travel apps on smart phones law enforcement agencies were frustrated when the location of checkpoints was revealed. After adapting to our ever-changing world we did not hide our location and per some department policies even make the locations public information. There is significant value in educating the public that what we do is a deterrent and we always encourage “having a plan” for how an anticipated impaired person intends on getting home safely.
Upon hearing the inevitable news that House Bill 4 had finally passed, I immediately did what law enforcement officers do every day….I adapted! I quickly called my best friend Meghan Carter who was, before her promotion, the State Executive Director for MADD Missouri, with an idea. Between the two of us we created Saturation Saturday!
In a matter of days we had a venue for our Rally Roll Call, got donated Grab-n-Go food, and found several volunteers ready to help. Then we started the uphill battle of trying to get 20+ local police agencies to agree upon a date to do it. Each agency was asked to dedicate as many officers as possible for paid overtime using grant funds provided by the Missouri Department of Transportation. (Have you ever heard the term ‘Like herding a bunch of cats’?) The date made sense which was the middle Saturday of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s annual ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’ campaign. We enjoyed all the enthusiasm generated by the annual mobilization and didn’t mind the ad campaigns reminding the public we are out there!
For our first Saturation Saturday in 2017, we only had our local St. Louis County and Kansas City, MO agencies participate. In 2018, Meghan found a way to make it a national event, and we had New York and Illinois join Missouri in our efforts. In 2019, we increased our number of states to 18! Year 2020 was set to break our record, but due to COVID, we are doing it ‘virtually’ hoping as many agencies as possible find a way to participate.
As a law enforcement officer of almost 25 years I appreciate the value in adapting to your surroundings no matter the situation. We always try to do what’s right no matter the circumstances. But I can assure you when a partner organization such as MADD and Meghan Carter gets involved, the interest by passionate traffic officers increases significantly!
See you at the next Saturation Saturday!
Editor’s note: this year’s nationwide MADD Saturation Saturday Campaign will be on August 29th.