Police officers from around Northern Virginia were presented with awards for excellence in community service and public safety. The ceremony was the 14th annual award presentations given jointly by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and the Fairfax Alcohol Safety Action Program. This year’s event was held at the Tysons Westpark Hotel on May 20.
The Fairfax area was well represented in the awards, with three officers from the City of Fairfax and four from George Mason University being recognized.
"We’re really appreciative of the awards ceremony," said Chief Richard Rappoport of the City of Fairfax Police. Rappoport pointed out, however, that while they are honored by the recognition, the officers aren’t in it for the awards.
Officers who are on the scene during alcohol-related crashes, Rappoport said, tend to be driven not to have to work those kinds of situations again. "That motivates you," he said.
THE CITY of Fairfax Officers that were honored all took a leadership role in stopping drunk drivers. Officer Joseph Trahey led the department in the number of Driving Under the Influence arrests with 81 in 2004, said Rappoport.
While Rappoport encourages all of his officers to be generalists, most develop a particular area in which they specialize. Most officers in the city’s police department have made 12-15 DUI arrests in a year. "I think it's something (Trahey) pays particular attention to," Rappoport said.
Officer James Myles III had the second-highest number of Driving Under the Influence Arrests with 32.
Capt. Michael Artone of the city police managed a city police program to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents, Rappoport said. Artone was in charge of ensuring that the enforcement happened and managed sobriety checkpoints. In addition to the logistical challenge that the checkpoints present, Artone had to ensure that they comply with legal restrictions.
Over the course of the year, DUI arrests increased by 12.8 percent while alcohol-related accidents decreased by 23 percent, Rappoport said. "It’s really [Artone’s] leadership that’s critical," he said.
GEORGE MASON University Police have a different sort of environment to patrol. While many of the people in their area are under 21, colleges are also known for being hotbeds of drinking.
Officers must assist during major events when students might be in a parking lot drinking or doing drugs. "Our people go beyond the traditional DWI enforcement," sad Chief Mike Lynch of George Mason Police.
His officers also talk with the students, both on campus and at local high schools, and explain the dangers of drinking and the potential consequences of being caught. "We actually do go well into the education and prevention component of this battle," Lynch said.
The four officers recognized from GMU were MPO David Ganley, MPO Sharon Radfar, Officer Ashley Morgan and Sgt. James VanDoren. "They are the most active members of the special team of officers who are trained to be our alcohol enforcement team," Lynch said.
Both Ganley and VanDoren have been recognized as "officer of the year" at George Mason. VanDoren has also been invited as a speaker at a conference to explain the successes of George Mason’s alcohol enforcement program.