As the head of the DUI section of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for almost four years, Windermere Police Chief Dave Ogden was familiar with the nuances and technicalities officers must understand to properly enforce DUI laws, as well as a lack of DUI enforcement nationwide.
During his first six months as chief, Ogden recognized a serious absence of knowledge about DUI enforcement among Windermere Police, as well as daily evidence of DUI putting the people of Windermere at risk, he said.
“Upon my early months here in office, I read a report of a single car accident where the driver went to the hospital (with) a BAC of .20, but no arrest was made,” Ogden said. “Regularly, I would receive phone calls from supervisors requesting assistance with drivers suspected of DUI, yet, at that time, our officers weren’t comfortable with the technical nuances in making some of those arrests. Additionally, we were clearly seeing evidence of individuals driving through our town impaired: multiple street signs were knocked down in the middle of the night; local trees were struck and run over; and a brick wall to a residential subdivision was demolished by a vehicle running through it.”
All of these suspects fled undetected, despite causing damage to Windermere and endangering the public, Ogden said.
“Our town, which is known for a high level of traffic enforcement, was being used as a safe haven for people driving through it impaired, and this was no longer acceptable,” he said.
This led to the department beginning a vigorous DUI training enforcement program in October 2013, which continues today. Through the following year, Windermere Police consulted outside experts, heard testimonials from a local family whose relative died via DUI, attended advanced levels of training and hosted a three-day NHTSA-certified DUI enforcement course, which personnel from more than 20 agencies attended, Ogden said.
“We posted articles on social networks to educate the public and participated in all local traffic safety programs to enhance our efforts of providing traffic safety, and the results are staggering,” he said.
The results show almost six times as many 2014 DUI arrests in Windermere as there were in 2013. Windermere Police made only 10 arrests for DUI in 2013, but officers of that department made 59 such arrests in 2014, an increase of 490%. Officers Ryan Miller and Robbie Harrison made almost all DUI arrests, with 33 and 23, respectively.
“Officer Miller’s inspiration was our very own Officer Robbie German, who was killed on March 22, 2014,” Ogden said. “Officer German and Officer Miller were partners on patrol and scheduled to attend the three-day NHTSA school together, which was also dedicated to Officer German. Officer Robbie Harrison…was motivated to get into law enforcement when a friend of his was killed by a drunk driver. I think the results of our directed training efforts combined with the motivation of our officers has made our streets and our citizens much safer.”
The crackdown on DUI has already extended into 2015. Around 10 p.m. Saturday, a Windermere officer patrolling Conroy Windermere Road and Isleworth Country Club Drive arrested Jennifer Garcia, 28, after conducting field sobriety tests. Garcia almost struck oncoming traffic before rear-ending a vehicle. Her charges included DUI, battery on law enforcement and resisting an officer with violence.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].