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Police on the checkpoint

By Melanie Ruberti

 

Melanie.ruberti@lagrangenews.com

 

Police on the checkpoint 

 

LPD officers deploy different techniques to catch traffic violators, DUIs

 

 

LaGRANGE – Most of LaGrange Police Officer Chad Bohannon’s patrol days do not begin with him running on foot after an alleged intoxicated motorist attempting to drive away from an accident scene.

 

Thursday, Dec. 1, was the exception.

 

The senior patrol officer was walking back to police headquarters along Ridley Avenue after the annual LaGrange Christmas parade when he was stopped by a driver whose car was hit by a Ford F250 truck, according to a report.

 

But the motorist driving the truck decided he did not want to stick around. The man jumped a curb on Ridley Avenue, drove down the sidewalk on Battle Street barely missing dozens of pedestrians walking in the area and clipped a barricade, the report stated.

 

SPO Bohannon took off after the driver – on foot.

 

“I ran from here (Ridley Avenue and Haralson Street) through the parking lot of City Hall, down the steps of the police department and I jumped into my patrol car,” Bohannon recounted. “I kept my eyes on him (driver) … I knew he was going to get hung up in all that traffic … I caught up with him on Battle Street waiting to turn onto Morgan Street.”

 

Bohannon promptly arrested the man for reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

 

Then he smelled a strong odor of alcohol and knew another charge would probably be tacked on to the driver’s growing list of alleged traffic infractions.

 

The senior patrol officer noticed the man was stumbling around, had glassy, watery eyes and drawn out speech, he said.

 

Bohannon was right. The motorist allegedly blew a .146 in the Breathalyzer, according to the police report.

 

A violation of driving under the influence was added to the list of charges as the driver was booked into the Troup County Jail.

 

“This was my first time running a DUI using the Intoxilyzer 9000 (formal breath alcohol test in Georgia) since I went through training and received my certification,” Bohannon stated. “But I like to use my knowledge, experience and training to judge what their impairment is and then use that (breath test) to confirm for me where their intoxication level falls.”

 

Only law enforcement or jail officials who receive training and pass the class are permitted to use the Intoxilyzer 9000.

 

The equipment is housed in the Troup County Jail and is different from an Alco-check sensor used in the field by officers, said Bohannon.

 

The Alco sensor is not an official test result and is primarily used to confirm the presence of alcohol on a person’s breath, he explained.

 

“I enjoy doing this type of police work and getting them (DUI motorists) off the streets and potentially saving a life,” Bohannon said.

 

The senior patrol officer is not new to the streets of LaGrange. He has worked with LPD for three and a half years in its patrol division. Before that Bohannon spent 15 years with the Columbus Police Department – part of that time with their “Motor Squad” – a motorcycle traffic enforcement unit.

 

“I’ve worked many DUI fatalities,” Bohannon said. “Your chances of having an accident rise exponentially when you drink alcohol or use drugs and then get behind the wheel of a car.”

 

Bohannon has a keen eye for spotting someone who is potentially driving while under the influence.

 

“If (the driver) is not staying in their lane … or ran a stop sign … I’ll pull them over … if I smell alcohol then I’ll take them through the SFST (Standardized Field Sobriety Test),” he explained.

 

The SFST is a series of three tests a law enforcement official will instruct a potentially impaired driver to perform after they are pulled over, according to the Triple A website.

 

The tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), which shows if the driver’s eyes involuntarily jerk when an object is moved from side to side, plus a walk-and-turn and a one-leg stand tests. Both assessments are considered “divided attention” evaluations to see if the impaired driver can listen and physically follow instructions at the same time, Triple A officials stated.

 

“If I am going through the effort to test you using the SFST then chances are I’m not going to just let you go,” said Bohannon. “It will probably require a trip to jail.”

 

The Senior Patrol Officer and the LaGrange Police Department also deploy traffic safety checkpoints around the city – day and night – to stop people from driving while intoxicated.

 

These checkpoints also give them a chance to look for other traffic infractions such as equipment failure on a car, no registration or insurance or driving on a suspended license.

 

The latter violation was discovered by Bohannon in the second car he stopped during a traffic safety checkpoint Thursday night on Lafayette Parkway near East Render Street.

The motorist was behind the wheel of a SUV though his driver’s license was suspended 18 years ago, according to the police report.

 

The man had multiple suspension offenses including driving under the influence, the report stated.

 

Bohannon immediately arrested the driver and took him to the Troup County Jail.

 

“I’m obligated to not allow him (motorist) to drive anymore,” he said. “… It would be better if he didn’t, given everything he had faced in the past … I’m not a judge nor am I a jury, but to plea your case on the side of the road does you no good.”

 

The traffic safety checkpoints are also a good deterrent to crime and can potentially help officers catch suspects wanted by police, Bohannon added.

 

“Driving is usually part of any crime,” he explained. “The checkpoints allow us to meet people, but also catch people with warrants or trying to get away from the scene of a crime.”

 

The LPD officer said he enjoys every facet of traffic enforcement such as speed enforcement, accident investigations and most importantly: securing the community.

 

“We (LPD) strive to be in every neighborhood, on every street, roadway and thoroughfare to keep people safe, plus their families and their property,” Bohannon said. “I try to find a way to help people … no matter who I am dealing with … everyone makes mistakes and I believe everyone deserves a second, sometimes a third chance.”

 

 

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She can be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.