There was a time when Bremerton’s police officers would often hand over a motorist suspected of drunken driving to a Washington state trooper.
Since organizing a traffic division about five years ago and beginning an increased traffic and DUI emphasis inside city limits, the numbers have soared. In 2005, there were 107 DUI cases in Bremerton Municipal Court; in 2010 there were 276, according to numbers I obtained from the city this past week.
There have already been 249 cases in 2011, through Oct. 3.
An emphasis patrol conducted by the department’s graveyard shift — known as “Third Watch” — netted 15 arrests in three nights between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1. I asked Billy Renfro, one of the two third watch sergeants, a series of questions about how it went and what it accomplished.
JF: How well did the emphasis go?
BR: Both (fellow third watch sergeant Rich Cronk) and I thought it went outstandingly … we were handling area calls in addition to the DUIs. I was really impressed with the entire shift as a whole. The officers that were not directly involved with arresting DUIs were covering calls and assisting with transports to the jail.
JF: How did officers strategize to seek out additional DUIs?
BR: I don’t know that we had a specific strategy, other than ‘Let’s go out and make traffic stops’ …The DUIs will follow. It was a city wide emphasis, although I think a majority of the stops occurred on the east side of town.
JF: How many officers participated?
BR: Each night we ran 5 to 7 officers and we had a reserve officer on one of the nights, which really helped with the transports.
JF: How does this kind of proactive patrolling benefit the city’s residents and public safety as a whole?
BR: The benefits to the safety of the commuting public is something that I don’t think we can ever really measure. I am absolutely convinced that the officers of Third Watch have saved lives and prevented damage to property with every DUI driver that is arrested. And this is something that the Watch eagerly pursues. It’s not something that Rich and I have to come in and force them to do.
In closing, I’m extremely proud of the efforts put forth by the entire shift, but specifically impressed with (Master Police Officer Matt) Thuring, Traffic Officer (Don) Rogers, Officer (“Duke”) Roessel, Officer (Steve) Polonsky, and Officer (Steven) Forbragd.