Federal grant for Coon Rapids DWI officer renewed

Contributing Writer

A federal grant funding a full-time Coon Rapids Police Department officer to enforce DWI laws has renewed by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Office of Traffic Safety for a third year.

A four-year National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grant, administered by the state agency, was first awarded to the city in 2015, but it has to be renewed each year based on progress reports that are submitted by the police department.

The $107,000 the department receives for the Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2018 time period pays the salary and benefits for a DWI officer as well as court costs and a squad car with necessary equipment to enforce traffic laws.

According to Police Chief Brad Wise, the police department, which has had a work plan and budget approved by the state agency, is responsible for squad car operating costs, uniforms and weapons not covered by the grant.

The officer works peak nights and times when drinking and driving occurs, including weekends and holidays, Wise said.

Impaired driving also includes illegal drugs, he said.

An officer is assigned to the DWI position on a six-month basis, Wise said.

Since the grant program went into effect in 2015, the number of DWI arrests has increased, although it is hard to quantify how much, according to Wise.

That’s because recent court decisions, for example, mandating a warrant be obtained by police to have blood drawn on the suspect in many DWI situations, have made the process more complicated and time-consuming, Wise said.

State law requires probable cause for a driver to be stopped by police and almost all DWI arrests result from an initial stop for a moving violation, such as speeding and erratic driving, he said.

“DWI checkpoints are illegal in Minnesota,” Wise said.

According to Wise, if the DWI officer is called to or responds to an incident other than impaired driving, the time spent on non DWI-related calls in excess of 15 minutes must be paid for by the police department.

“That’s a small price to pay for the availability of being able to help when needed,” said Mayor Jerry Koch.

When the city received the federal dollars, the authorized strength of the police department was increased from 64 to 65 sworn officers, but once the grant program ends, the department’s authorized strength will revert back to 64 through retirement or attrition, according to Wise.

Eight counties in Minnesota, including Anoka County, were eligible for the federal NHTSA grant because they had the most impaired-related deaths or serious injuries; the others were Dakota, Hennepin, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Ramsey, St. Louis and Stearns.

“That’s a list you don’t want to be on,” Koch said.

Twelve law enforcement agencies were selected for grant dollars across those counties with the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office and the Coon Rapids and Lino Lakes police departments chosen from Anoka County.