West Central Task Force helps combat drunk driving

Sedalia PD conducted sobriety checkpoint last weekend

By Nicole Cooke - [email protected]

The Sedalia Police Department conducted a sobriety checkpoint Friday, May 20 and it’s just one part of being a member of the West Central Task Force.

The West Central Task Force was created in Fall 2014 after a suggestion from the Missouri Department of Highway Safety’s Education Division, which has helped create several similar task forces across the state, said Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond.

“They came to us about establishing a multi-jurisdictional task force to reduce accidents and fatalities and drunk driving,” Bond said earlier this week. “So there were agencies from four counties that joined together as a result — Saline, Benton, Henry and Pettis. Because we are the central location and largest entity, we undertook the writing of the grant and all of that. (SPD traffic) Officer Victoria Kottman actually wrote the grant and it’s under the Sheriff’s Office, so we’re actually administering the grant.”

Bond said through the course of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, there will be a series of enforcement efforts in the area, such as more sobriety checkpoints and underage alcohol purchasing projects. He added that the primary agencies involved are Marshall, Sweet Springs, Sedalia and Cole Camp police departments and the Pettis County and Henry County sheriff’s offices, although any agency in those four counties can participate.

SPD conducted a sobriety checkpoint on Winchester Drive near 12th Street from 10 p.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday. This checkpoint was operated by Sedalia and Cole Camp police officers and Pettis County Sheriff’s Office deputies. According to a SPD news release, officers checked 257 vehicles, taking the following actions:

• Arrested one subject for driving while intoxicated.

• Issued three citations for no operator’s license.

• Arrested two subjects for outstanding warrants.

• Arrested two subjects for driving with a suspended/revoked license.

• Issued one municipal court summons for an open container violation.

• Arrested one subject for unlawful use and concealment of a firearm.

“It was very successful,” SPD Chief John DeGonia said earlier this week. “A lot of times people try to measure checkpoints by how many arrests, but the goal is how much preventative work did we do. We put these on more of a preventative measure than a numbers game of ‘how many people we can arrest.’”

SPD officers received help from other law enforcement agencies involved with the task force, which both Bond and DeGonia said is a big plus for everyone involved.

“It’s very helpful (to have extra officers), that way the work is shared,” DeGonia said. “When we started it too, we went to other locations to see how it’s done. As a task force we can go to Cole Camp, if there’s one planned out in the county; everyone has additional manpower so it’s not so taxing on their agency.”

DeGonia said SPD checkpoint officers are typically off-duty officers who are paid through the grant so routine patrol isn’t affected, but sometimes it can be hard with sick days and vacations, so those extra officers from other agencies “help a bunch.”

The task force also helps spread the wealth among large and small agencies when it comes to grants.

“The most important thing is this is able to expand the resources across multiple jurisdictions, so especially small agencies that don’t have a lot of resources, they can also get expertise from larger agencies, have other officers come in and assist them so we can be able to have coordinated projects in areas that otherwise wouldn’t have funding or the manpower to make it happen,” Bond said.

“… It’s a win-win for both sides — small agencies get resources they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise and it augments larger agencies to get people from other locations to come in as well. It’s an opportunity for people to pool their resources and more effectively combat crime and deter those types of things that occur in our communities.”

Bond said the organization has administrative meetings to map out locations and dates for various projects to occur and to assign project supervisors.

Beyond the benefits for agencies, both Bond and DeGonia said the main emphasis is to help better protect the public.

“We hope to educate and prevent,” DeGonia said. “I talked to Victoria (Kottman) today, she believed it was successful because we prevented. We probably did prevent an accident or someone driving while intoxicated. Several people came by who had obviously been drinking but they had a designated driver. I think the word is getting out there — don’t drink and drive and put someone else in danger, and have a designated driver.”

Sedalia PD conducted sobriety checkpoint last weekend

By Nicole Cooke

[email protected]

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.

Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.

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