Citizen Reporting of DUI- Extra Eyes to Identify Impaired Driving
Results of Interviews with Key Informants
PIRE conducted interviews over a three-month period in person, by telephone, and during ride-along trips with Montgomery County enforcement officers. We contacted officers and volunteers (Table 7) recommended to us by Extra Eyes staff associated with the program.
We developed six interview protocols, one for each informant category (Table 7). The protocol questions pertained to each specific category, although all protocols contained some similar items, such as questions about the program’s general background, volunteer selection and recruitment, volunteer roles and responsibilities, media activities, and experience and satisfaction with the Extra Eyes program. Senior law enforcement officers also were asked to provide information on operational aspects of the program (e.g., liability, budget) and any available data or documentation on Extra Eyes efforts. A complete list of the questions in each category is included in Appendix A.
The senior law enforcement interview, the first and the longest conducted, contained 30 open-response items and took approximately 45 minutes. Information from these responses provided much of the history, background, and operational details of the Extra Eyes program. In many cases, our researchers followed up with telephone calls to senior law enforcement informants to verify facts and request additional information.
Interviews with law enforcement officers took approximately 30 minutes and consisted of 12 open-response items about how the Extra Eyes program operates, experiences working as an officer on Extra Eyes events, responsibilities and value of the volunteers, and satisfaction with the Extra Eyes program, among other things.Eight interviews were conducted, either in person, by telephone, or during a ride-along.
Interviews with community volunteers took approximately 25 minutes and consisted of 13 items focusing on experiences with recruitment and training, and their role during enforcement activities. Ten community volunteers participated, half through in-person interviews and half on the phone.
Because student volunteers were younger than age 18, we approached the local SADD coordinator to invite students to participate. However, the SADD coordinator only succeeded in locating two students (most of the students had started college, and new students had not yet participated in Extra Eyes). Both student volunteer interviews were done by telephone and involved nine items pertaining to their experiences with the program.
The remaining interviews were done with two prosecutors and one media representative (two media representatives declined the invitation to participate). The interviews were brief and included seven to eight questions about awareness of the program and perceptions of its effectiveness.
We documented and analyzed interviews and then grouped them into the following general categories:
We then compared reactions from individuals in different categories and identified response patterns. As noted above, background information collected from these interviews also permitted us to produce an historical account of the Extra Eyes program’s inception and operational methods.
The following information represents a compilation of all interview data. Wherever feasible, areas of agreement and disagreement were given the appropriate emphasis and, if possible, quantified. Because the people interviewed had differing levels of involvement with the program, their impressions may be more or less indicative of the overall program; however, this report attaches the same value to all feedback received about the Extra Eyes program.
Program Background and Operation
As noted by the original founders, the Extra Eyes program was initiated after the 9/11 tragedy and the October 2002 Washington, DC, sniper incident to curb officer burnout and to motivate officers to participate in DUI enforcement. The Extra Eyes program began as a component of Montgomery County’s Enhanced Impaired Driving Task Force.
One of the original program founders described Extra Eyes as a discrete piece of an overall task force. “There are lots of pieces and they can all work together or separately. Extra Eyes can be one night with or without the students, and checkpoints occur on another night with the students helping.” He explained that “sometimes checkpoints, Extra Eyes, and student volunteers all work together.” This often depends upon the time of year (e.g., during holidays and prom seasons). Another senior law enforcement officer noted that, unlike other enforcement activities such as checkpoints, community volunteers are necessary for the Extra Eyes evenings. Without community volunteers, the Extra Eyes enforcement activity was not scheduled or was cancelled. Student volunteers, however, could participate in a number of other enforcement efforts.
The senior law enforcement interviews provided the most thorough information on operational aspects of Extra Eyes, although we also offered law enforcement officers an opportunity to comment on “how the program works.” The Background and Operations section of this report highlights most of what we learned.
According to senior law enforcement personnel, the Extra Eyes program has no specific budget. Primary costs are for overtime (funded by State Highway Safety Funds) paid to saturation patrol officers. Community volunteers are not paid. Although they could be reimbursed for gas, none have requested reimbursement.
Equipment is generally borrowed from the Police Department. Finally, no liability insurance costs were associated with the program, as volunteers were covered by the Volunteer Services Department of Montgomery County. A more detailed description of the resources used to support the program is described in the Resource section of this report.
We attempted to contact all media representatives who reported on Extra Eyes. The one national television media representative who provided an interview described her experience with Extra Eyes. She first learned of the project when a CNN editor saw a MADD press release covering an award to the Extra Eyes program. CNN followed up and found a very well run and cooperative Extra Eyes program involving citizens in police enforcement efforts that were deemed newsworthy. “It’s just so different than any other program,” said the reporter. “[Extra Eyes] seems so effective and would be more so if it spreads to other communities.” The CNN crew rode in one volunteer’s minivan for 7 hours and produced a 5-minute story. The feedback after the broadcast was very positive. Most of the audience loved the description and thought it “sounded like a fantastic idea.” There were a couple of blogs critical of “police state,” but most responses were enthusiastic and wanted similar programs in their communities. Even several months after airing the news story, CNN still received occasional e-mails or telephone calls about the Extra Eyes program.
Responses from law enforcement officers and community volunteers reflected their different experiences with the media regarding the Extra Eyes program. In Montgomery County, the Media Relations Department announces saturation patrol dates. Law enforcement officers reported that the Extra Eyes program has neither sought nor avoided media coverage since the beginning when the program was announced in a press release. Although initially media coverage was difficult to obtain, most law enforcement officers and community volunteers reported an increase in positive media coverage in the recent past. In 2002, the sniper tragedy was a more pressing media event. The involvement of the SADD students in the program helped the Extra Eyes program’s visibility because the media loves kids.
Most community volunteers believed that the media coverage should be increased. One volunteer said that Extra Eyes “does not have as much media coverage as it should be getting. It has not been one of the more highly publicized events. Things like checkpoints get more publicity than educational programs.”
One law enforcement officer noted that, in some cases, media coverage could be a drawback because, in his opinion, less publicity was better for successful apprehension of violators. Several officers also mentioned an incident in the first year when there was a negative Washington Post article that focused on citizen involvement as a potential liability issue should some citizen act as a vigilante. Other newspapers like The Gazette read about the program in the Washington Post and, through its own investigation, learned that the Extra Eyes program was a positive community activity. All subsequent coverage by the press was positive. There have been recent requests from the media for ride-alongs with community volunteers. To accommodate these requests, senior law enforcement officers have tried to organize additional nights for media participation.
We also interviewed two prosecutors from the Montgomery County Prosecutors Office to obtain the court system perspective of the Extra Eyes program. Both were aware of the Extra Eyes program and the role that community volunteers might play in an arrest; however, the Extra Eyes community volunteers were unlikely to come in contact with the justice system in the prosecution of drinking-and-driving incidents. Both prosecutors had been on ride-alongs with the police to observe how impaired driving arrests worked, which helped when they were prosecuting cases. Although both had observed the operations of the Extra Eyes community volunteers during saturation patrols, each prosecutor experienced it differently. One prosecutor who had been aware of the program’s existence for about two and a half years said that communications from Extra Eyes community volunteers led to additional arrests; the other prosecutor did not observe any arrests or stops made as a result of the community volunteer reports. It was possible that other officers may have followed up on the calls. Extra Eyes cases were not identified as such in the reports. Officers did not use Extra Eyes information in the reports but were required to establish their own probable cause2 or reasonable articulable suspicion3 for use in court. The quality of the evidence received in court was not impacted in either way by Extra Eyes involvement, and neither prosecutor was aware of Extra Eyes volunteers testifying in court.
Overall, the prosecutors’ impression of the Extra Eyes program was a positive one: both thought that community volunteer involvement led to more impaired driving arrests. Additionally, they explained that the program had even more value for police/community relations, and because “officers love it,” Extra Eyes was of value to the overall law enforcement effort.
Volunteer Selection, Training, and Roles
Community volunteers learn about the Extra Eyes program from multiple sources. Most had work-related involvement with the Montgomery County law enforcement community (e.g., being a part of the county liquor control commission or the underage drinking program, or through the Montgomery County Highway Safety Office [HSO]). One community volunteer graduated from the Montgomery County Citizen’s Academy4, and another joined after seeing an article in a local newspaper.
Despite the screening process for community volunteers, one senior law enforcement officer noted that there were occasions when one or two of the recruits “did not work out.” One volunteer who did not work out was a retired officer who continually “went/chased after a subject,” which community volunteers are not permitted to do.
Approximately 26 volunteers received Extra Eyes training; however, only 10 are currently active. Community volunteers have contributed to the Extra Eyes effort for up to a year and a half and are willing to continue when called upon. Because the police department does not request a specific time commitment from volunteers, it has retained most of them.
The level of training differed, depending upon the volunteer’s background and the programs in which the volunteer participated. The community volunteers reported that their training was mainly conducted in two settings. Some attended a three-hour class where they watched a PowerPoint presentation and were given a Resource Notebook with relevant information on a variety of topics: drinking and driving laws, what to look for on patrol, how to recognize an impaired person, issues related to people younger than 21, use of radio, other relevant laws, and the do's and don'ts of being Extra Eyes staff. The participants felt that this training was appropriate. Others reported a six-hour training session with a group of about 20 people. This more comprehensive training included lectures, slides, videos, and role-play. These trainees also received the Resource Notebook. One volunteer who participated in a ”wet workshop” with intoxicated or not-intoxicated pseudo-patrons received practice training in how to make judgments about levels of impairment.
The Extra Eyes program task assignments are flexible in that community volunteers may choose whichever aspect of the evening activities they prefer. This is possible because volunteers are paired up in teams and each team divides up duties, such as driving to and from locations or calling in observations on the radio. For example, one volunteer said, “If one person is not comfortable on the radio, the other can do it.” Another volunteer may prefer to “bring food to the briefing and help to motivate the others” on patrol nights, rather than going out in the car. Another choice may be to help the student volunteers do paperwork at the police station, such as “fill[ing] in the proper forms to get the process moving.” Other opportunities for Extra Eyes volunteers include handing out materials and role-playing during training sessions. Additionally, “they can collect and enter data, research articles, provide follow-up, or track progress of project.”
Because Extra Eyes by definition involves volunteer activities, the program “depends on volunteer involvement, and if no volunteers are available, the activity is cancelled and officers go out as a regular unit.” However, community volunteers are generally scheduled well in advance, and the last-minute arrangements only happen in special situations such as when the media requests permission to attend on a particular evening. Officers then will attempt to accommodate the media by pulling together an activity in a short timeframe. The officers do not depend on volunteers for their regular enforcement activities; they “still go on with an event because in saturation patrol, the officers are out anyway doing DUI enforcement and laser patrols (for speeding).” The Extra Eyes volunteers just provide another set of eyes to use in alcohol-enriched environments.
The Extra Eyes volunteers were primarily scheduled by officers or senior personnel through telephone calls or e-mails. They are invited to participate in a scheduled event, such as saturation patrols, or they are given a choice of dates when they can ride along.
Originally, motivational speakers from the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) or MADD performed a dual function of not only motivating the community volunteers, but also “motivating officers who originally may not have been as interested.” Volunteers, who were “always to be stationary,” were then sent to targeted areas usually in the neighborhood of saturation patrols. Currently, teams are allowed to patrol a segment of the roadways.
The program has changed in subtle ways in the few years of its existence. In the beginning, “the teams would compete and see who would get more pullovers,” and they were given “little rewards” like gift certificates from eating establishments. Now, evening activities do not include competitions or gift certificates.
Montgomery County officers give talks about the Extra Eyes program at the high schools, SADD meetings, and Eagle Scout meetings to recruit teenage volunteers. Although student volunteers are used mainly for paperwork, they also help out with other activities such as compliance checks. One officer commented that “good handwriting should be a requirement.”
Student volunteers may either fill out tickets in the patrol vehicle or do the paperwork at the station. The officers could accommodate “up to 10 students but even having just one is okay.” They also assemble DUI packets of forms to help the clerk. The students also pre-fill information on the DUI reports or do other types of paperwork.
The students themselves offered typically age-appropriate reasons for participating in the Extra Eyes program.
The student volunteers have “usually all worked out.” Officers noted that one student came in to the Police Station in pajama bottoms (typical high-school fashion) and was sent home to change into more appropriate clothing.
When asked if they would continue volunteering with police enforcement efforts, student volunteers responded positively, but one said she would be more willing “if I [she] had someone to go with because it’s more fun to go with a friend.”
Students are not limited to working on Extra Eyes activities; they also perform a variety of tasks in the police station and in the field. They help with identification photos and write biographical information on citations so that officers only have to verify the information. On cold nights, the students (and often their parents) deliver refreshments to officers. Student volunteers may stay in the office and help complete the paperwork, or if there is no saturation patrol, they and the interns ride along with officers. Note: parental involvement was not expected as part of a student’s participation. Parents were only expected to sign a permission form to allow their child to participate.
Program Experiences and Expressed Satisfaction
All informants agreed that their overall experiences with the Extra Eyes program were positive. Senior law enforcement officers expressed enthusiasm for the Extra Eyes program and felt it was an important contribution to their impaired driving law enforcement efforts. All the officers reported that they were much more motivated because they really felt that Extra Eyes had a positive impact.
Officers especially liked that the format of the Extra Eyes program was simple and did not inconvenience anyone, requiring neither set up nor interruption of public traffic. Officers said the Extra Eyes program offered advantages over other impaired driving law enforcement programs and that Extra Eyes required “no set up time, no traffic situations for the public.” One senior law enforcement officer saw Extra Eyes as doubling officers’ chances of making arrests without working so hard because the situations were handed to them. Also, on Extra Eyes nights, “Officers don’t want to look bad in front of civilians, so they work a little harder.”
Both community volunteers and student volunteers believed the program was beneficial and felt a sense of satisfaction in being able to make a difference. The student volunteers thought the activities they were allowed to do not only helped the officers with their work but also was a benefit to them. All said they would continue with the program. One community volunteer commented: “There was a guy driving down the wrong side of the street. The cops stopped him on the on-ramp from 395 to the Beltway and thus prevented something that could have been very serious.” Community volunteers were proud of the part they played in alcohol enforcement activities. “It’s more than calling in cars driving around without headlights.”
Student volunteers whom we interviewed said the experience was “absolutely positive” and valuable. Although both officers and students received a benefit from the program, one student volunteer said, “It was more for us than them,” because it allowed teenagers to interact with officers in a nonthreatening, positive manner. “A lot of teenagers think officers are enemies and we can’t trust them, and that is totally incorrect. Officer M---- and the other officers are just so nice, they made us feel safe and it was great.”
Both student volunteers whom we interviewed focused their discussion on ride-along experiences rather than on office duties. Both students were a part of liquor store observations where they watched with an officer to see if underage people were entering the liquor store. They also had limited contact with impaired individuals when they observed officers breaking up a party at college campus housing and serving citations. Student volunteers never experienced a situation in which they felt unsafe but commented that because “the people at the party were around our own age, it felt kind of weird.” Student volunteers felt they were being helpful to the police officers, because the officers could go “around the room and question people. The students were all doing the citations, so the officer didn’t even have to worry about the paperwork.”
Community volunteers felt they were “helping police make their enforcement efforts go a little further” by enhancing their operation. They also had the “satisfaction of doing some good volunteer work and helping get some impaired drivers off road.” All volunteers were satisfied with the training they received and described it as “very appropriate” and “real world training.” The most experienced community volunteers had received earlier training at the Citizen’s Academy, whereas the more recent community volunteers started only when the Extra Eyes program came along.
The media representative was very enthusiastic about citizens being involved in a program to help stop impaired driving. The reporter who followed the Extra Eyes team had “never encountered excitement about a program like that,” and subsequently did a five-minute story about Extra Eyes that was broadcast on CNN.
Those prosecuting impaired drivers in the county also had a positive impression of the Extra Eyes program. They thought that it led to more impaired driving arrests and that the primary value of Extra Eyes is “for police/community relations and to the overall law enforcement effort.”
Finally, although the number of arrests may be one measure of the program, community volunteers believed that the impact would be felt even if there were no arrests. In one example, community volunteers called in an incident where they saw several impaired people in a moving vehicle; however, no arrests were made because a designated driver was behind the wheel. Community volunteers saw this as a positive opportunity to confirm to the public that the designated driver system works. In general, the community volunteers’ opinion of the Extra Eyes program is that they couldn’t “say enough good things about it.”
3Reasonable Articulable Suspicion: The weakest standard of evidence having meaning in U.S. law. It is an articulable reason to suspect that a person has engaged in or is planning to engage in a criminal act. To be valid, a reasonable suspicion must convince an uninvolved reasonable person when the situation is described to him or her; a mere hunch or nebulous suspicion is not enough. An arrest may not be made based on a reasonable suspicion; probable cause is required.
4The Montgomery Citizen’s Academy is an extension of the department’s community policing efforts. It was developed to help the public gain a more comprehensive understanding of what is required for police officers to effectively perform their duties.