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Columbia's new DWI unit prepared for New Year's Eve

Wednesday, December 30, 2009 | 6:40 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — For the two officers assigned to the new DWI enforcement unit, New Year's Eve is just another day at the office.

Officers Chris Hessenflow and Patrick Corcoran will spend New Year's Eve at work,  and three patrol officers will also be assigned to DWI enforcement. The DWI unit shifts differ from patrol unit shifts because they are not dispatched on calls.

“Their primary responsibility is traffic enforcement with an emphasis on finding impaired drivers,” Sgt. Shelly Jones, the unit's supervisor, said.

The full-time unit was implemented after the City Council accepted the Full Time DWI Unit grant from the Missouri Division of Highway Safety. The officers were assigned to the unit on Dec. 14.

Hessenflow and Corcoran were reassigned from the patrol division of the Police Department to the new unit. Jones said no additional training was required because all patrol officers are certified to conduct field sobriety tests and to use the Intoxilyzer, the machine used to determine blood alcohol content.

The officers work on a rotating schedule with shifts that run from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., Jones said.

The blood alcohol content limit in Missouri is .08. This provides confirmation that a driver is intoxicated but is not the only thing that can be used to make a DWI arrest.

“I have to have a very solid case without that number,” said Public Information Officer Jessie Haden of the Columbia Police Department. "Sometimes it can be obvious an individual is intoxicated if the conversations or field test happen in front of that camera."

Patrol vehicles are equipped with cameras and audio recorders that document such stops.

Missouri’s implied consent law allows driving privileges to be taken away for a year if somebody refuses to take the Breathalyzer.


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