CHP officers arrested nearly two dozen suspected of drunken driving Saturday, during an Impaired Driver Task Force.
Over the course of the night, about 100 stops were made by 12 patrol cars, said Sgt. Paul Reyes. A total of 24 officers, from all over the CHP Southern Division, made impaired driver and driving under the influence 23 arrests.
CHP officers use the IDTF program, which is funded by federal grants, to find impaired drivers and to also create community awareness of the CHP, said Lt. Eric Broneer with the Antelope Valley CHP station. An event with the program is held two to three times a month at different offices in the CHP Southern Division.
“What this program is about is primarily looking for impaired drivers — people who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs even,” Broneer said. “Most of our officers have special training so that they can detect if someone is under the influence of prescription drugs or other narcotics which is more difficult to detect than it is to detect someone under the influence of alcohol.”
The CHP officers began the evening with a briefing. CHP sergeants and lieutenants discussed their plan for the night, where the command post would be, where to take arrestees and where the nearest hospital, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital was located.
Following the briefing, officers paired up, checked their patrol cars for proper maintenance and took to the streets of the Santa Clarita Valley and parts of the West Valley area.
It’s the responsibility for CHP officers to check their car’s tires, radio and other parts before beginning their patrol, said Officer Christopher Proper, a member of the community-oriented policing squad who escorted KHTS AM-1220 and SCVTV throughout the evening.
CHP officers often find drivers who appear to be driving under the influence, but officers also respond to 911 calls for drivers who appear to be driving erratically and dangerously, Proper said.
When someone suspected of driving impaired is pulled over, officers ask them to come out of the car and perform a series of field sobriety tests, or FSTs. One of the more well-known tests is the walk and turn, or walking a straight line and turn around.
When the suspected impaired driver fails the FSTs, officers put the individual under arrest on suspicion. A tow truck is usually called out to pick up the arrestee’s vehicle.
Tow trucks can run hundreds of dollars, and the tow truck company’s office is usually closed for vehicle pick-up over the weekend.
The cost of a DUI can add up to thousands of dollars with the tow truck companies, fines and fees, driving safety courses and Department of Motor Vehicles re-licensing.
“The big thing is not necessarily the cost, but losing the license,” Proper said. “This affects your work, your family, all that stuff. It’s not worth it.”
For the IDTF program, CHP officers set up their command post in the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Stationparking lot. The command post was used to conduct breathalyzer tests for arrestees and where officers would fill out the numerous forms that come along with a DUI arrest.
Usually stationed at the command post is a dispatcher, sergeant and escort officer, said Roger Bergeron, a public safety dispatcher who was on duty Saturday night.
After paperwork has been completed at the command post, the escort officer would walk the arrestee over to the SCV Sheriff’s Station where the arrestee would be booked. Normally, CHP arrestees are taken to jails in Van Nuys and Palmdale.
As part of the process, and for safety of the officers, deputies and other inmates, arrestees must take off their shoes and remove all belongings from their persons in a holding cell.
In the holding cell, the arrestees are allowed to make phone calls to reach out to family or loved ones, Proper said. Contrary to popular belief, inmates can make more than one phone call but jailers try to limit arrestees to four as to not tie up the phone lines.
The process could take hours, and “is not as glamorous and exciting as the television shows,” Proper said.
After the officers had their arrestee booked, they headed back out to the streets of the Santa Clarita Valley.
CHP officers and leaders hope that events like these and education can help prevent impaired driving, crashes and DUI-related deaths, Proper said.