By Jessica Farrish
Area police officers were honored Thursday at the West Virginia Highway2Enforcement Conference at The Resort at Glade Springs in Daniels.
Beckley Police Cpl. Jamie Wilhite and Sgt. F.D. Shelton, Raleigh County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason L. Redden and Cpl. Randy R. White and Oak Hill Police Patrolman C.M. Bowling received recognition for their excellent records in apprehending drunken drivers.
Today marks the final day of the conference, which focuses on DUI training.
Bob Tipton, director of the State Highway Safety Program, said that the goal of the conference was to provide training for police officers and to recognize 52 officers who made the most DUI and impaired driving arrests in the state last year.
Sobriety checkpoint training and standard field sobriety test administration are among the training workshops being offered, Tipton said. “We hope it will become an annual event,” he added.
Tipton said 10,808 DUI arrests were made in the state in 2012.
In addition to driving drunk, driving while impaired by drugs is also a focus of training in the state now, he added.
Redden arrested 138 motorists on DUI and impaired driving charges last year. He said that’s his personal annual record for DUI arrests.
“It’s a real honor to be here, to be invited,” said Redden. “It’s really great training.
“Keeping safe on the highways is very important,” he added. “You’re responsible not only for yourself, but for everybody else on the road. People who get out there and drive while impaired and intoxicated put us all at a risk to be hurt or killed or to suffer a financial loss.”
Redden said that keeping the highways safe is his job.
“I’m doing what I love to do, and one of the things I feel is very important in our community, (that is) keeping our roadways safe.”
Offering a tip to new officers, Redden urged them not to look on the “face of the violation you’re stopping for.”
“Dig a little deeper,” he said. “Take a second look.”
A stopped motorist could be impaired, be wanted by law enforcement or have a drug or weapons violation, he said.
Beckley Police Lt. Paul Blume, coordinator of the Southern Regional Highway Safety Program, said the conference training has been important.
“This is a great event,” he added. “Hopefully it will be something they choose to have come back year after year for training and to recognize these officers. They get a better grip on how highway safety itself runs, so I think they’re going to be much more in touch about what is wanted from them.”
Representatives from the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles were present to offer training on the DMV court system.
Blume said Wilhite, Shelton, Cpl. S.A. Whitt, Cpl. Josh Stewart and others in the department did an excellent job of arresting drunk drivers in 2012.
“Those guys were dedicated to drunk driving and impaired driving and made a lot of DUI arrests last year,” he said. “There are other police departments that are considerably bigger than we are, but we still ranked fifth in the state in DUI arrests. I’m very pleased.”
Blume said there isn’t a particular “hot spot” for arresting impaired drivers in the city.
“Our guys rove all over,” he said. “We put them out on DUI patrols, and they roam the whole jurisdiction to find what they’re looking for.”
Blume said officers never “slack away from” making DUI arrests.
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