The Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has awarded $27,000 to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) for DUI and impaired driving enforcement, providing an infusion of funding that is expected to help reimburse the department for overtime, equipment and directed patrols.
Broken down, $9,000 of the grant will be spent on new radars for speed enforcement, and $6,000 will be spent on patrols focusing on speed and traffic safety. Those type of patrols typically happen during weekdays or mornings, and while officers are still looking for impaired drivers, they might be less likely to find them.
“A lot of times deputies, that’s part of their normal duties as they are out on patrol or calls, or on their way to something, they’ll do proactive patrols. They’ll stop vehicles that are driving erratically or speeding or showing signs of having impaired drivers. A lot of times it’s kind of in conjunction with our normal duties,” said Gerrit Boeck the operations commander at CCSO. He’s in charge of overseeing sworn deputies at the Sheriff’s Office.
People are also reading…
The final $12,000 chunk of grant funding will allow CCSO to pay officers to focus specifically on DUI enforcement and patrol. Because the Sheriff’s Office is short-staffed, the $12,000 will be put toward overtime hours, offered during weekends and holidays, for officers to keep an eye out specifically for impaired drivers.
In 2021 CCSO made more than 142 DUI arrests. This year, so far, they’ve made 134.
That’s without increasing DUI patrols as much as deputies would like. Typically they up enforcement the most during Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day Weekends. This year, staffing was a factor in increasing patrols during other holidays.
“Maybe when we get up to staffing," Boeck said. "There are a lot of folks in training. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but right now everybody’s kind of a little burned out. We’re just trying to cover shifts. Like, we want to do something for Halloween, but we’re just kind of at the point where we’re like ... 'Let’s just wait until the next one,' just because of staffing. We’re not trying to burn everybody out."
And while the $27,000 is not all that much, according to Boeck, it’s meaningful for a couple of reasons.
“It lets us buy equipment -- which is nice. Those six radars bought for $9,000 we would not have otherwise had the money to buy that. That helps our deputies out there doing the job to do a better job. That’s extremely helpful,” Boeck said.
He also explained that it’s not entirely about the value of the money, it’s about what a grant award does to focus goals and shape deputy mindsets.
“It prompts us as an agency to do these extra patrols, whereas we might not otherwise. It’s a priority, but it gets us on the same track as other agencies around us. There’s that motivation factor to actually get folks out there and say, 'Alright, let’s go out and do this.' Whereas before, if we didn’t have this grant, we would probably still be doing it but it wouldn’t be as motivating for the deputy that’s out there looking for these drivers,” said Boeck. “I think it’s a little bit more than the money.”
The funding fits well into the CCSO philosophy.
“Sheriff Jim Driscoll has established holding accountable drivers who make the decision to drive while impaired by drugs and alcohol a top priority within our organization,” wrote CCSO spokesperson Jon Paxton. “Over the past year, deputies have received specialized training in impaired driving as well as participated in several impaired driving task force events. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to aggressive traffic enforcement with the specific goal of making our streets, roadways, and highways safer for the citizens and visitors in Coconino County to travel on.”
DUI enforcement is also important to deputies at the individual level, according to Boeck.
“The biggest reason it’s a priority is just public safety. Life safety. We all respond to several crashes a year that involve impaired drivers, whether that’s alcohol, drugs, any type of drugs, you name it. Once you do this job for any time at all it becomes a passion because you see the effects of it,” said Boeck. “This allows us to have extra officers out on the road enforcing this stuff and looking for this stuff to keep our roads safer, without the county having to foot the bill for it."
Sierra Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.