Berkeley, California Officer Aron Belveal talks about a fatal DUI collision he witnessed on his way home from his shift. “We have to get these kind of people off the streets.”
In a few weeks, Officer Aron Belveal will retire from his career in law enforcement. But before he retires, Mothers Against Drunk Driving asked him to talk about the time he witnessed a fatal hit & run collision on the freeway while driving home after work. Please access the video at the link below.
Saturation Saturday 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.
August Officer of the Month Lieutenant Robert Netherland, III Henrico County Police Department Henrico, Virginia
Lt. Robert Netherland, III has been with the Henrico County, Virginia Police since 1994. Lt Netherland received the MADD law enforcement award several times back in the late 90’s. This was at the beginning of his career when it was not uncommon for him to average one DUI/DUID arrest per night while working evening and midnight shifts. The most he was able to arrest in one shift was three, knowing that each arrest takes up to about three hours.
It was as a member of the Henrico Police Crash Team that Lt. Netherland became deeply involved in impaired driving crash investigations. In time, Henrico County dedicated a prosecutor to those cases. They credit Lt. Netherland’s expertise in the fields of crash investigation and impaired driving to securing convictions.
Once on the Crash Team, most of the investigations dealt with making arrests after blood draws due to someone being involved in a crash. This led to Lt. Netherland becoming the “go to” officer for advice on search warrants and understanding the law. On many occasions, he has received a phone call in the middle of the night to just answer a question for an officer.
Lt. Netherland was assigned to the Virginia General Assembly for several years and wrote the “Drinking while Driving” law which is an extra charge on top of a DUI arrest if an open container is found in the vehicle. He was also responsible for writing grants back in 1998 for the Crash Team. Those grants have now grown into to over $300,000 per year, some of which support checkpoints and saturation patrols. Due to his extensive knowledge of the topic, Lt. Netherland has served as a trainer for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and has presented at numerous conferences; most recently at the 2018 Virginia Highway Safety Summit and the Mid-Atlantic DUI Conference.
Almost as importantly as his career highlights, we recognize Lt. Netherland for his connection to and support of MADD Virginia. His sister Denise was killed by a drunk driver in 1980 after which his mom Shirley served as the President of MADD in Central Virginia for 6 years. His father was a beloved Virginia State Trooper.
Lt. Netherland is absolutely dedicated and unwavering in his support of MADD Virginia. He has led and/or participated in his department’s raising of many thousands of dollars through their participation in the Richmond area MADD Walk each year. This year the Henrico Police held a Brunswick stew sale which raised over $6,000 toward the Walk.
Lt. Netherland and his officers also encourage and embrace the participation of MADD volunteers in checkpoints. He invites them to share their victim stories at the briefings. There is a dedicated group of victim volunteers who participate in checkpoints, all of whom adore Lt. Netherland and his officers.
Lt. Netherland and his department also participate in the MADD Candlelight Vigil which is held in Henrico each year. In 2019 there was bad weather and the event was forced to be held indoors which resulted in reduced participation by even victims. Demonstrating their continued support, there ended up being more Henrico Police officers in attendance than victims and family members.
MADD National is proud to recognize Lt. Robert Netherland, III as the August 2020 Officer of the Month. We thank him for his many years of dedicated service to the citizens of Henrico County, the State of Virginia and MADD. Thank you to MADD Virginia’s Cristi Cousins for her nomination of Lt. Netherland for this recognition.
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.
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MADD’s 2020 Court Monitoring Report was recently released and can be found at this link. Of interest, nationally, the conviction rate is only 59% in the 15 states where MADD currently has court monitors. The report also lists state by state reports.
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.