Officer Kevin Will, Houston, Texas Police Department
Memorial Day weekend has historically been a very active weekend for officers to deal with impaired drivers. May 29, 2011 was a special time for The Houston Police Department’s DWI Task Force and Vehicular Crimes Division. Officer Lloyd Morrison, who had been struck by two different impaired drivers Memorial Day Weekend 2009, was making his first visit back to the department and celebrating the holiday with his former co-workers. Vehicular Crimes Investigator Kevin Will was dispatched to work a hit and run crash in the 100 block of the North Loop. Officer Will and other VCD investigators were on the scene for an extended period taking photos and measurements. At approximately 3:15am, Johan Rodriguez disregarded the officers that were blocking the freeway and drove around them at a very high rate of speed. Rodriguez sped up on the closed freeway and struck Officer Will, killing him instantly. The investigation showed that Rodriguez was driving approximately 90 mph and had a BAC of .19.
In June of 2012, Rodriguez pled guilty to Intoxication Manslaughter of a Peace Officer and was sentenced to 55 years in prison. At the time, it was the longest sentence handed out in the State of Texas for a single count of Intoxication Manslaughter.
Kevin Will left behind his wife Alisha, who was pregnant at the time of his death. His son, Kevin Will Jr, was born in August of 2011.
Editor’s note: In conjunction with the National Law Enforcement Memorial Week and Day, MADD honors the nearly 22,000 law enforcement officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and have been killed in the line of duty in our nation’s history. This year 307 new names have been engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C.
Art Acevedo Chief of Police Houston Police Department
As the fourth largest city in the United States – and soon to be the third largest – Houston has always had a serious issue with impaired driving. In fact, Houston has consistently been at the top of the list year-after-year when it comes to DWI-related fatal crashes. The Houston Police Department (HPD) has made a conscious effort to bring down the number of DWI-related fatal crashes, and over the last 18 months have made many changes to become better as a department at recognizing and arresting those impaired drivers. This has not been an easy process, and was met with some resistance; however, the results have been better than we could have hoped for when we started.
Since 2005, all new HPD officers have come out of the police academy with the requisite training to conduct the Standard Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), but we found that their training was not being used properly and we knew that we needed fundamental changes to the program.
Accordingly, the first step in the process was to conduct a DWI overview class for all 5,300 HPD officers. This was completed as part of our annual in-service training classes as a four-hour block of training. The next step in the process was our Field Training Instructors or FTIs. We knew that many FTIs were not comfortable with the DWI process, which also led to the FTIs avoiding DWI arrests with their probationary officers. If the new officers were not exposed to DWIs while training, then the chances of them wanting to process DWIs after training were also not good.
Starting in late 2018, every FTI in the department went through an 8-hour SFST update class to help them become more proficient with the tests. Once the trainers were up to speed, we mandated that each probationary officer would have to complete five (5) DWI investigations prior to completing the field training program. The result of this has been hundreds of new officers that are not afraid of the DWI cases, and many new officers that have made it a point to be on the lookout for DWI’s after they complete training. The next change came for our DWI Task Force.
Over the years, the 25-person DWI Task Force of HPD had become a purely reactive unit that mostly assisted patrol units with DWIs or worked DWIs as a result of crashes, instead of being proactive and actively looking for the DWI’s before crashes happen. In January 2019, the HPD DWI Task Force stopped taking cases from patrol – exceptions being those cases that involved serious bodily injury and fatal crashes wherein conducting Drug Influence Evaluations were needed.
Given the background above, the results of all of this additional training provided a substantial increase in our DWI-related arrests. In 2018, HPD made 5,150 DWI arrests, which had been a slight increase over 2017. In 2019, HPD made 8,675 arrests, which is the most in the history of our department, and a 68% increase. While HPD has made great strides, we are not done with improving our response and actions to this deadly and devastating crime.
Earlier this year, HPD was the first law enforcement agency in the State of Texas to teach the Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) course in-house. As such, the Houston Police Department will continue to provide training for our officers, and with an increase in drugged driving cases, ARIDE will be a vitally important tool for our patrol officers in the future.
When I began my law enforcement career in 1986 as a young California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer in East Los Angeles, it didn’t take long for me to witness, first-hand, the life-changing and deadly consequences of a DWI. As the number of deadly scenes I had to visit mounted quickly, my resolve was to do everything I could possibly do to protect my first responder family and the community from the scourge of DWI. I sought advanced training, including Advanced Drug Recognition Expert Certification, and became one of the inaugural members of the CHP Southern Division Impaired Driver Task Force (IDTF). Due to the diligence of the IDTF team, we were able to significantly reduce both the number of DWI crashes and the mileage death rate in our jurisdiction.
It is now 34 years later and I am proud of being part of a profession and an HPD family that saves lives each and every day with our tireless pursuit of those who selfishly place us all at risk by committing the crime of DWI. I am also grateful for the amazing body of work and the positive impact that Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD has had in our fight to combat these dreadful crimes. For nearly 40 years, MADD has stood strong, side-by-side, with the men and women of law enforcement and have helped us save lives. So here’s to the men and women in blue, and our MADD partners. See you all out on the road as we continue on our journey to a world with zero traffic deaths stemming from DWI.
Please be safe and holler if HPD can be of assistance!
MADD May Law Enforcement Officer of the Month Lieutenant Victor Tyson Pooler Police Department, Pooler, Georgia
LT Victor Tyson is the Traffic Commander for the Pooler Police Department in Pooler, Georgia. He is a certified Drug Recognition Expert, Field Sobriety Test Instructor, and a Traffic Accident Reconstruction Specialist. He is also certified in both LIDAR and RADAR and is a certified car seat technician.
LT. Tyson hosts and educates officers not only in his municipality, but in other jurisdictions as well, on the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing that will assist officers in the removal of impaired drivers from Georgia roadways.
Under his command, there was a 34% increase of DUI drivers removed from the roadways in the Pooler area compared to the previous year. In September of 2019, LT Tyson helped to secure a $26,000 grant to purchase a DUI simulator. This simulator includes items to educate the community and schools on how alcohol and marijuana effects a person when they are operating a motor vehicle.
His traffic unit also uses that equipment to partner with MADD to speak to military members about the consequences of their actions if they use alcohol or drugs when they drive or drink underage. Anytime that MADD has ever needed assistance with an event in the community, they can reach out LT Tyson and his unit and they are more than willing to help with anything MADD needs.
Since 2012, LT Tyson has received (2) DRE 50+ Evaluation Pins, (4) 25+ DUI Pins, (2) 50+ DUI Pins, and (1) Agency of the Year Award.
MADD thanks LT. Tyson for his dedicated work in removing impaired drivers from our roadways. We are proud to select him as the May Officer of the Month!
Strong drunk driving laws are key to saving lives. That is why we’re so grateful to our legislative partners who have championed MADD’s mission to end the No. 1 killer on our nation’s roads. It is why, each year, we honor lawmakers whose outstanding work has put us closer to a future of No More Victims.
These are MADD’s 2019 legislative heroes in Congress:
The RIDE and HALT Acts introduced in 2019 would require alcohol detection technology in all new vehicles.
Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan introduced legislation to require drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles days after the Jan. 6, 2019 drunk driving crash claimed the lives of an entire Northville family. Dingell proposed a more wide-ranging measure in September. The Honoring the Abbas Family Legacy to Terminate (HALT) Drunk Driving Act requires federal regulatory action by 2024 to install drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles. The HALT Act is named for the five members of the Abbas family killed in this unthinkable tragedy: Issam and Rima Abbas and their three children, Ali, 13, Isabella, 12, and Giselle, 7. Thanks to Rep. Dingell’s leadership and tenacity on this issue, there is now momentum behind taking action to require life-saving systems in all vehicles.
MADD meets with Rep. Nita Lowey, a 2019 MADD legislative champion for her work to end drunk driving.
Representative Nita Lowey of New York has worked for decades to end the 100 percent preventable crime of drunk driving. Throughout her career, she has been a genuine force in this ongoing fight, including championing the successful effort to establish a national standard of .08 BAC, which has saved thousands of lives. Recently, Rep. Lowey proposed legislation to encourage more states to pass laws requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders. Thirty-four states, including New York, currently have these laws, which have prevented more than 3 million attempts to drive drunk in the last 12 years. Additionally, through her position as Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Lowey has worked to accelerate the development of in-vehicle technologies to prevent a drunk driver from operating a vehicle.
Senator Rick Scott of Florida introduced a bipartisan measure in October that could ultimately end drunk driving in America. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act by Sens. Scott and Tom Udall of New Mexico would require the installation of passive advanced drunk driving prevention technology in all new vehicles within four years. This technology would prevent a drunk driver from operating a vehicle and save 7,000 lives a year. Sen. Scott is also a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which is responsible for motor vehicle and highway safety programs and legislation. He has quickly emerged as a national legislative leader in the fight to eliminate drunk driving.
MADD has recognized Rep. Jan Schakowsky for a lifetime of work to end drunk driving.
Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois chaired a March 2019 hearing of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee that focused on the government-auto industry research program supported primarily by government funds for more than a decade. At that hearing, MADD National President Helen Witty challenged the auto industry to move drunk driving prevention technology development out of the research labs and make it available to consumers as soon as possible, where it could save as many as 7,000 lives a year. Rep. Schakowsky is committed to motor vehicle safety and a true advocate in the fight to end drunk driving.
Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico has consistently taken a leadership role in the fight to reduce drunk driving, including leading efforts to provide funding for a research program to develop a passive system for preventing a drunk driver from operating a vehicle. Now Senator Udall is working with Senator Scott of Florida on bipartisan legislation that would take the results of that research out of the laboratory and make the technology standard equipment in all new vehicles, like many other life-saving safety systems. The Reduce Impaired Driving for Everyone (RIDE) Act has the potential to save 7,000 lives a year and will add to Senator Udall’s legacy of advancing meaningful measures to save lives and prevent injuries.
MADD National Law Enforcement Impaired Driving Summit Final Report
In November of 2018, MADD hosted a National Law Enforcement Impaired Driving Summit. Executive level law enforcement officers attended and discussed and identified barriers to strong impaired driving enforcement. This link will take you to the final report for the Summit which identifies those barriers and offers solutions to improve enforcement.