2. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
Austin, the capital city of Texas, is centrally located between San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Austin has a population of 667,000 in the city limits and over 1 million in the metropolitan Austin area. The city covers a land area of 238 square miles and the Austin metropolitan area encompasses 2,705 square miles. Located within the city limits of Austin are two of a chain of seven lakes that comprise the Highland Lakes. The other five lakes are located to the north-west of the city. The University of Texas in Austin is the largest component of the University of Texas System and is home to over 50,000 students, 3,000 faculty and 18,000 staff members.
In addition to public safety, these specialized anti-DWI enforcement teams helped to ad-dress a procedural problem within the Department. Prior to the creation of the dedicated unit, officers spent an inordinate amount of time, shown by early dispatch data to be between three and four hours, handling a DWI arrest. The result was that officers were out of service and off the roadways for much too long a period of time. Part of the time required to process a DWI arrest involved waiting for video facilities to become available at the police station. Having a specialized team dedicated to handling DWI suspects, implementing revamped procedures, and in-stalling video cameras in the specialized team’s patrol units streamlined the process, and allowed arresting officers to return to service more quickly.
The main goal of the Austin Police Department anti-DWI enforcement team was to in-crease public safety on the highways by detecting and removing more impaired drivers. This goal was to be fulfilled by meeting the following objectives:
LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY DESCRIPTION
In 1998, the Department decentralized its operations to create a neighborhood-based model of law enforcement. In this reorganization, the City of Austin was divided into six area commands (described in the Geographic Jurisdiction section below), with resources transferred to the neighborhood level to solve problems at their source. In September 2001, a seventh area command was added to focus on the downtown-central business district. Two additional sectors are to be added in late 2003.
Each area command is managed by a commander and staffed with its own patrol units, detectives, street response teams, motor units and civilian support staff. The theory is that de-centralizing operations and empowering area commanders with the resources to serve law enforcement needs at the neighborhood level enhance both the response to crime and the ability to prevent crime. Patrol officers have the opportunity to develop stronger ties to the community, communicate effectively with residents and businesses to prevent crime, and build a relationship of mutual respect and trust with the community they serve.
To provide a liaison between patrol officers and neighborhoods, the district representative (DR) program was implemented citywide in 1998. First tried as a pilot program in the Northeast Area Command, the DR program assigns a district representative, a sworn police officer, to tar-get specific districts within an area command. The DR officer develops close working relation-ships with citizen groups, neighborhood associations and businesses. When special problems arise within a district, the DR officer can focus on the problem and manage resources to best ad-dress the issue.
Special Enforcement Teams
Within the current APD is a traffic unit comprised of a lieutenant, twenty officers in a weights and measures unit, ten in a collision investigation unit and eight on a permanent anti-DWI task force, along with other administrative and supervisory staff. The traffic unit has been regularly supported and enhanced by supplemental Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs (STEP).
EVOLUTION OF A SPECIAL DWI ENFORCEMENT UNIT
In January of 1998, an operations plan was developed3 for a DWI task force. From February through August of that year, APD officers were placed on assignment to work on this task force for specified periods of time. The goal of that task force was to reduce alcohol-related fatalities by 15 percent, compared with the same period in 1997. The Traffic Office Lieutenant was responsible for analyzing data submitted by task force officers to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the program.
A schedule was set up that assigned the numbers of officers needed to staff the task force from the various divisions, but the Division Commanders determined the individual assignments. The anti-DWI task force operated seven days a week from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. Sundays through Fridays, it operated from 8:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., with two teams of two officers on Sun-days through Wednesdays, and four teams of two officers on Thursdays and Fridays. On Saturdays it operated from 8:00 p.m. through 4:00 a.m., with two teams of two officers working along with five officers from the DWI Selective Enforcement Program (STEP). STEP officers were the only officers who were not required to work in pairs. The numbers of officers and times varied slightly throughout the seven-month project.
While all APD officers had received DWI enforcement training at some point at the APD police academy, many officers would not have had recent experience in handling the complicated processing required by this type of arrest. A training videotape was utilized by the Traffic Office to brief all officers assigned to the task force on the proper DWI enforcement procedures. The supervisors of officers requiring additional training notified the Traffic Office for additional training assistance. All DWI task force officers worked in uniform and drove marked police units when they were available. Otherwise, the Traffic Office provided unmarked vehicles equipped with lights and sirens.
DWI task force officers were responsible primarily for enforcing laws related to driving while intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol, but also were responsible for enforcing all traffic laws. Officers working the task force processed their own arrests, and were also called upon to process DWI or DUI arrests for patrol officers. DWI task force officers were instructed, when called upon, to relieve patrol officers by the “most expeditious means, either by going to the scene of the arrest, or arranging to meet the patrol officers at the station.”4
Patrol officers were instructed to complete written supplements to the incident report de-tailing the probable cause for the original stop. They were also responsible for completing adequate tests to determine that the suspect was DWI before turning the arrest over to a task force officer. DWI task force officers were responsible for completing all necessary incident reports, affidavits, and booking sheets on the patrol officers’ arrests they had relieved. Additional administrative tasks for DWI task force officers included completing a nightly activity sheet to which they attached a copy of their CAD (computer aided dispatch) sheet. These were sent to the Lieu-tenant in the Traffic Office. The CAD sheets were used to analyze data on time required to process DWI and DUI arrests.
During the evolution and operation of this special DWI enforcement team, general patrol officers, once again, became more familiar with the DWI arrest process that had become more streamlined. Consequently, general patrol officers became more comfortable with making DWI arrests and began handling more of their own cases throughout the process, without relying on specialized DWI enforcement officers.
At the start of this study, DWI suspects were usually brought to APD headquarters to be processed into the jail. Reportedly, suspects were held temporarily at headquarters and then, periodically, were transported in mass by jail personnel to the jail facility. Upon completion of a new jail, law enforcement officers now typically have to transport suspects directly to the jail and wait with those suspects until personnel at the jail complete the processing procedures. Many APD officers believe this has increased the amount of time they spend processing DWI arrests.
The dedicated unit concentrates enforcement efforts on areas where DWI offenses are most likely to occur (e.g., entertainment areas featuring bars and nightclubs) during times when most impaired drivers are on the road (i.e., evenings, weekends and holidays). Typically, the DWI units are dispersed throughout the city, but at times saturation tactics are utilized. In addition to initiating their own alcohol-related arrests, members of the Enforcement Team are able to provide support to regular patrol officers during peak offense times, relieving patrol officers by handling the lengthy processing of DWI arrests.
If asked to assist in a supporting role, the special officer may supervise the process, or may advise at certain points, such as validating the HGN results. Or, if asked, the special officer may completely take over the arrest, which allows the general patrol officer to return to service quickly. In this case, the initiating officer would then be responsible for writing a supplement to the DWI unit officer’s report. The supplement to the main report contains the reasons why the general patrol officer stopped the vehicle, what was observed and that the process was turned over to the DWI unit. If there is not a sober occupant in the vehicle to drive it, the general patrol officer may wait for the police wrecker to tow the vehicle.
Reportedly, general patrol officers process a DWI arrest in approximately three hours, while a DWI special enforcement unit officer usually requires about half that time, roughly 90 minutes. However, data from the APD computer assisted dispatch system (CAD) discussed on page 15 indicates the processing times by the DWI unit officers and general patrol unit officers do not differ greatly.
The entire DWI enforcement unit works every Friday evening. The unit is split with half working Tuesday through Friday evenings, and the remaining working Wednesday through Saturday evenings. The shifts are rotated every four weeks. Reportedly there is a low turnover rate within the unit and several officers have been with the unit for four years. The DWI enforcement unit is not an assigned unit, meaning APD officers must apply for any open positions. The cur-rent sergeant for the unit reports that officers serving on the Unit are passionate about making quality arrests, as well as quantity. DWI arrests are one of the few areas in law enforcement where the arresting officers can follow a case from detection to arrest to adjudication to sanctioning; this is very satisfying work for the officers.
As was discussed earlier, while all APD officers have, at some point, received training on detecting and arresting DWI offenders, many have not actually handled this type of arrest, or at least not recently enough to feel comfortable about properly handling the complicated procedures and paperwork. If this is the case, general patrol officers, upon stopping a suspected impaired driver, may elect to call in a DWI special enforcement unit officer to support or handle the arrest process. Or new officers with less experience, who do want to handle the arrest, may need assistance, because during the time that rookie officers initially spend riding with training officers, they may never encounter a DWI. When they eventually do detect and stop a DWI suspect, enough time may have passed since their academy training that they may wish to have an experienced DWI officer present to offer guidance and assistance.
In fact, in August 2002, a new aspect of the cadet training program5 began in an effort to expose new officers to the actual DWI arrest process. Under this program, each area commander sends one rookie officer per week to the DWI unit for a three-week assignment. The first week, each cadet rides with a DWI unit officer and observes procedures and reviews their skills in ad-ministering the roadside tests. On the second and third weeks of their temporary assignment, they ride alone but work with the DWI unit taking hand-off arrests and making some of their own DWI arrests. Therefore the cadets, while learning proper procedures, strengthen the number of officers serving on the DWI unit. The fourth week they report back to their shift at their as-signed area command. By this time, they are familiar with apprehending and processing their own DWI offenders and with taking hand-offs from fellow officers in their area command. This training program should help to maintain, and perhaps further increase, the number of DWI arrests.
As is problematic for other law enforcement agencies, APD DWI enforcement unit officers complain that attorneys attempt to use probable cause hearings for discovery purposes. But these officers are well versed in handling court and ALR hearing appearances.
5An ongoing cadet training program assigns academy graduates to six of the seven area commands (the downtown area command does not receive cadets due, in part, to the large 6th Street entertainment district where only experienced officers are assigned) to learn proper procedures and to gain experience while under the supervision of a training officer.
6APD website (www.cityofaustin.org/police).