Guest Author – August 2023

Officer Nickolas Knoll
Officer Nicholas Knoll

Northern Idaho dui task force
A Successful Law Enforcement Partnership for Community Safety
Officer Nickolas Knoll
Coeur d'Alene Police Department, Idaho
Drug Recognition Expert

While Idaho is one of the safest states in the country when it comes to the problems associated with excessive drinking, the city of Coeur d’Alene was ranked by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as the drunkest city in Idaho in 2018 (1). Of the almost 400 DUI’s that were arrested in the city in 2017, almost half either had a breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) over .20 or the driver refused to provide an evidentiary breath test. The average BrAC when someone provided a breath test was 0.178 (2). During the same period, 9 of the 18 fatal crashes in the County involved an impaired driver, which was significantly higher than the national average of 29 percent of fatal crashes caused by an impaired driver (3).

Local law enforcement recognized this was a problem and began collaborative proactive work to find a solution. The solution came about in 2019 with the creation of the North Idaho DUI Task Force (TF), which included the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, Idaho State Police, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the police departments from Post Falls, Rathdrum, Spirit Lake, and Hayden Lake. With the formation and utilization of the TF, incredible results have been accomplished through a combination of high visibility, aggressive enforcement, and community outreach and education.
One year after the implementation of the TF, there was a 50 percent reduction of alcohol related crashes in Coeur d’Alene and a 66 percent reduction of alcohol related fatalities county-wide (4). Coeur d’Alene is a resort area and the population in the county dramatically increases in the summer. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, traditionally the 100 deadliest days of driving, there were no alcohol related fatalities recorded. Additionally, during that first year, there were no alcohol-related crashes during any of the holiday weekends worked by the TF.

The TF is comprised of officers trained in the Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) with additional training in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and the Drug Recognition Expert program. Law enforcement recognized the impaired driving problem wasn’t limited to one city or even a specific area within the county and that impaired drivers quickly pass from one jurisdiction to another. Law enforcement knew they could make a bigger impact working together than with each agency working independently to address the problem. One of the major goals of the TF was for the community to know that officers throughout the county were working cooperatively to address the impaired driving problem.

A positive change came after analyzing how law enforcement deployed the limited resources each shared. Traditionally officers targeted areas where fatal and serious injury crashes previously occurred. By examining those crashes, it was determined most of the impaired drivers involved in those crashes could be tracked back to either downtown Coeur d’Alene or two other specific businesses in other areas of the county. By focusing resources on those areas, the TF was able to deter and arrest impaired drivers before they were involved in a crash.

Through the continued use and success of the TF, some valuable lessons have been learned which can assist other areas of the country in developing similar operations. They include 1) Public Support: Not only is the public supportive of law enforcement getting impaired drivers off the road, but they also expect it and support the efforts. 2) Messaging: Proactive, strategic, and timely messaging is extremely important. Our messaging highlights that most people choose not to drive impaired, encourages the public to make smart decisions by not driving after consuming alcohol and/or other drugs, and reminds them that law enforcement takes a pro-active approach looking for those individuals that make poor decisions; and 3) Outreach: This is important but must be combined and supported with high visibility enforcement. We look for creative ways to interact with the public and share our message.

Most of the agencies participating in the TF don’t have full-time DUI units and the smallest agencies have proven to be the best partners. Success could not be possible without partnerships. The Idaho Highway Safety Office (HSO) is highly supportive of the TF and provides grant funding to pay for officer overtime, banners, and billboards to publicize the program as well as providing discounts for ride shares leaving our high crash areas. We also partnered with the HSO and local business to provide discounts and gift cards for ride share services and provided coupons for free pizza to designated drivers that were stopped during the holiday season. The implementation and success of the TF has also resulted in increased training for other officers and agencies, which includes SFST Refresher, ARIDE and DRE.

Victims of traffic crashes are often only victims because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. All too often the only thing they did to make themselves a victim was trying to drive home, go to work or simply run an errand. Impaired driving crashes are 100 percent preventable, and the public expects law enforcement to proactively enforce those laws. In a time of fewer resources and increasing crashes on our roadways, law enforcement and roadway safety groups must find ways to do more with less. Developing a DUI TF like the one in Northern Idaho can serve as a valuable example. For more information regarding the Northern Idaho DUI TF, contact the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Police Department at email [email protected].

(2) Calculated this by reviewing every DUI report for the year and averaging the breath samples that were provided.
(4) 18 Impaired fatal crashes in both 2017 and 2018, 6 impaired fatal crashes in 2019, 7 impaired fatal crashes in 2020


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