banner - Grassroots Support for Impaired-Driving Law Enforcement Crackdown Efforts

Grassroots Activities


Tip #1: Make requests as personal as possible.

People respond best when they have an established, positive relationship with the person making the request. This sounds obvious, but too often law enforcement officials hear from community groups only when there is a problem or when they need something. Chapters that had pre-existing relationships with their law enforcement agencies were most effective in gaining law enforcement support for the crackdowns. By establishing a relationship with law enforcement before you need to ask for something, you will increase your chances of receiving a favorable response.

If you have not already established a relationship, how-ever, do not give up. A request such as this can provide a perfect opportunity to start one. However, the initial contact is best made in person. MADD chapters reported that scheduled face-to-face meetings were more success-ful than impersonal means of recruiting, such as letters, e-mail, or voice mail messages. Chapters should call and request a personal meeting with the agency’s top leader, such as the police chief or sheriff. The personal meeting provides an opportunity to show grassroots support for law enforcement activities and offer partnership support of the crackdown, rather than give the im-pression that MADD is “wagging its finger” at agencies who do not participate. MADD Nebraska made strong headway by sending out letters that not only asked law enforcement to participate, but also provided them with useful information about the DUI law and how to organize a legal checkpoint. MADD New Mexico separated those agencies that already did a good job (who received thank you letters) from those who could do better (who received recruitment letters).

Tip #2: Focus on law enforcement leaders.

When recruiting, it is important to remember that you are trying to gain the participation of agencies, not individual officers. The orders given to law enforcement officers originate at the top. Thus, support from top leadership is essential for enhanced enforcement efforts. In most law enforcement agencies, the leader will be the chief or the sheriff. However, if you are not able to meet with these officials, try to meet with those deputy chiefs or sheriffs who have either command or financial authority (over staffing or spending, respectively). Next to the chief or sheriff, these two officials generally have the greatest ability to shape the level of effort dedicated to traffic safety issues. MADD Indiana and Nebraska both wisely worked with their highway safety offices to get appropriate names for contact to make sure they were reaching out to those who could take action.

Tip #3: Use recognition and grassroots support to encourage law enforcement participation.

Law enforcement is rarely given the recognition and praise it deserves. By mentioning recognition events as part of recruitment, you can let law enforcement know that, while this is another demand on the time and focus of their organization, it is one that will be appreciated. In addition, law enforcement agencies and officers often engage in friendly competition, and knowing that officers and agencies will be recognized publicly can encourage them to compete and participate at higher levels. MADD New York found success with this technique.

By mentioning that you would like to work with law enforcement and participate in their activities, you help law enforcement agencies know that they will not be alone; that the community supports them. One of the comments we heard repeatedly from law enforcement was that it was simply nice to know that others cared about and supported the work that law enforcement was doing. Volunteers from MADD Arkansas called all of the agencies they were hoping to recruit and, instead of asking primarily if the agency was part of the crackdown, they asked how they could help the agency with crackdown efforts. This helped boost participation in Arkansas.

Tip #4: Use your current champions to help recruit new officials.

Doctors listen more closely to other doctors, lawyers listen more closely to other lawyers, and law enforcement officers listen more closely to other law enforcement officers. This is with good reason. Civilians do not have as good a grasp on what law enforcement officials face as do their brethren. Thus, having a State Colonel, Municipal Police Chief, or County Sheriff from a neighboring town ask for participation will help your recruitment efforts.

In addition, because traffic safety champions have an array of experience with high-visibility law enforcement techniques, they can provide new ideas and allay concerns. Common concerns voiced by some in law enforcement include that increased traffic safety enforcement will cost too much or will divert from other priorities. Current champions can help explain (in ways that civilians cannot) how they overcame barriers like these.

MADD Nebraska used this strategy. Law enforcement agencies in Nebraska had not used sobriety checkpoints because of the logistics involved. MADD Nebraska sent letters to law enforcement agencies asking them to employ checkpoints and included in the letters statements from respected law enforcement and State highway safety leaders explaining how checkpoints could be conducted easily and legally. This letter received a positive response.

MADD Alaska found similar success in using luminaries like the state trooper commander, public safety commissioner and deputy commissioner, and the mayor at its events. This type of leadership made the crackdowns seem very important to all involved.