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ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM IN AUSTIN , TEXAS
ENFORCEMENT PROGRAM IN AUSTIN , TEXAS
There are nearly 1.5 million Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
arrests each year in this country, making impaired driving
one of the most frequently committed crimes.
Austin , Texas modified their DWI program in 1999. A key
feature of Austin 's program was the development of a
full-time team of DWI "specialists." These officers patrol
the streets in two-person teams, looking for impaired
drivers. They are also available to assist general patrol
officers in processing DWI offenders ' thus relieving the
burden on those officers so that they can return to their
Austin 's program includes enhanced training for officers
in DWI enforcement. Rookie officers now accompany members
of the DWI team for four weeks to gain hands-on experience
in identifying and processing DWI suspects. The unit is
under the direction of the Traffic Administration Section.
The enforcement team, is comprised of eight patrol
officers and one sergeant, and concentrates its patrol
efforts on detecting and apprehending impaired drivers.
Each officer assigned to the DWI enforcement unit receives
training in administering the Standardized Field Sobriety
Tests. They also became certified Intoxilyzer operators,
and several have completed a drug recognition course.
While all APD officers receive DWI enforcement training at
some point at the APD police academy, many officers have
not had recent experience in handling the complicated
processing required by this type of arrest. A training
videotape was utilized by the Traffic Office to brief all
officers assigned to the task force on the proper DWI
enforcement procedures. The supervisors of officers
requiring additional training notified the Traffic Office
for additional training assistance. All DWI task force
officers work in uniform and drive marked police units.
The dedicated unit concentrates enforcement efforts on
areas where DWI offenses are most likely to occur (e.g.,
entertainment areas featuring bars and nightclubs) during
times when most impaired drivers are on the road (i.e.,
evenings, weekends and holidays). Typically, the DWI units
are dispersed throughout the city, but at times saturation
tactics are utilized. In addition to initiating their own
alcohol-related arrests, members of the Enforcement Team
provide support to regular patrol officers during peak
offense times, relieving patrol officers by handling the
lengthy processing of DWI arrests.
If asked to assist in a supporting role, the special
officer may supervise the process, or may advise at
certain points, such as validating the HGN results. Or, if
asked, the special officer may completely take over the
arrest, which allows the general patrol officer to return
to service quickly. In this case, the initiating officer
would then be responsible for writing a supplement to the
DWI unit officer's report. The supplement to the main
report contains the reasons why the general patrol officer
stopped the vehicle, what was observed and that the
process was turned over to the DWI unit. If there is not a
sober occupant in the vehicle to drive it, the general
patrol officer may wait for the police wrecker to tow the
The entire DWI enforcement unit works every Friday
evening. The unit is split with half working Tuesday
through Friday evenings, and the remaining working
Wednesday through Saturday evenings. The shifts are
rotated every four weeks. Reportedly there is a low
turnover rate within the unit and several officers have
been with the unit for four years. The DWI enforcement
unit is not an assigned unit, meaning APD officers must
apply for any open positions. The current sergeant for the
unit reports that officers serving on the Unit are
passionate about making arrests. DWI arrests are one of
the few areas in law enforcement where the arresting
officers can follow a case from arrest to adjudication.
While all APD officers have, at some point, received
training on detecting and arresting DWI offenders, many
have not actually handled this type of arrest, or at least
not recently enough to feel comfortable about properly
handling the complicated procedures and paperwork. If this
is the case, general patrol officers, upon stopping a
suspected impaired driver, may elect to call in a DWI
special enforcement unit officer to support or handle the
arrest process. Or new officers with less experience, who
do want to handle the arrest, may need assistance, because
during the time that rookie officers initially spend
riding with training officers, they may never encounter a
DWI. When they eventually do detect and stop a DWI
suspect, enough time may have passed since their academy
training that they may wish to have an experienced DWI
officer present to offer guidance and assistance.
In fact, in August 2002, a new aspect of the cadet
training program began in an effort to expose new officers
to the actual DWI arrest process. Under this program, each
area commander sends one rookie officer per week to the
DWI unit for a three-week assignment. The first week, each
cadet rides with a DWI unit officer and observes
procedures and reviews their skills in ad-ministering the
roadside tests. On the second and third weeks of their
temporary assignment, they ride alone but work with the
DWI unit taking hand-off arrests and making some of their
own DWI arrests. Therefore the cadets, while learning
proper procedures, strengthen the number of officers
serving on the DWI unit. The fourth week they report back
to their shift at their as-signed area command. By this
time, they are familiar with apprehending and processing
their own DWI offenders and with taking hand-offs from
fellow officers in their area command. This training
program should help to maintain, and perhaps further
increase, the number of DWI arrests.
The number of DWI arrests had been trending down from
about 3,500 in 1990 to only 2,200 in 1996, and had been
holding steady from 1994 through 1997.
With the start of a part-time DWI task force in 1998,
arrests increased to 4,077, an increase of 48 percent over
the 2,747 arrested for DWI in 1997. A further increase to
4,500 occurred in 1999 during the transition from the task
force to the full-time DWI unit. The arrest rate remained
at a high level in the following two years, with only a
slight dip in 2001.
Conviction rates for DWI cases adjudicated in county
courts in Travis County (where Austin is located)
increased from approximately 70 percent in 1996 to 77
percent immediately after the start of the program. This 7
percent increase in conviction rates remained in effect
through the year 2001.
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