Mothers Against Drunk Driving of Tennessee has presented McMinnville Police Department with an award for its dedication in reducing impaired driving and has named officer Justin Cobble as its Officer of the Year.
The announcement was made during the organization’s Night of Remembrance to honor and remember victims of impaired driving and underage drinking.
“McMinnville Police Department was nominated for the 2015 Outstanding Department Award for our efforts to reduce impaired driving in 2014 and we won for Middle Tennessee,” said McMinnville Police Lt. Mark Mara. “Justin had the most DUI arrests for McMinnville Police Department in 2014, but he also had the best percentage of cases being resolved in court for DUIs. He had a 100 percent conviction rate for 2014.”
The department increased its DUI arrests that year, increased its efforts to educate the public against impaired driving, encouraged the use of designated drivers, and sent officers to training to improve their abilities to detect impaired drivers, says Mara.
“We actually had more DUI arrests but we did a lot of things to try and curve the thought process of impaired driving,” said Mara. “Impaired driving isn’t just drinking and driving. It’s also with drugs, prescription medication, and illegal drugs as well.”
The department realized the need, says Mara, to train its officers on how to determine when a person is under the influence of alcohol or if it’s something else such as prescription medication or illegal drugs.
“In 2014, we sent every patrol officer through the detection and apprehension standardized field sobriety testing course,” said Mara. “It’s the first course officers can take. We sent an additional, I think 90 percent, of those officers to training in drug categories, other than just alcohol, to help with the detection and apprehension of people who were driving under the influence of drugs. Supervisors received that training as well.”
Training increased the number of DUI arrests.
“Our patrol division did a lot of training in 2014 and because of that, we had more than 20 percent increase in DUI arrests,” said Mara. “That’s directly related to detecting impaired drivers. We also did other things. We did advertising to encourage people to not drink and drive and to get designated drivers. We think that helped to encourage people not to drive impaired. With all those efforts, we received the award.”
McMinnville Police Department competed against other departments in smaller communities, as well as larger ones such as Murfreesboro and Cookeville, to win in Middle Tennessee. Memphis won in West Tennessee and Knoxville won in East Tennessee.