Missouri DUI Checkpoint Funding Gets Slashed to $1

by

A sobriety checkpoint snares drivers. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/VERSAGEEK
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/VERSAGEEK
  • A sobriety checkpoint snares drivers.
Sobriety checkpoints are going the way of the floating McDonald's in St. Louis.

A bill approved by the Missouri legislature earlier this month strips funding for such checkpoints from $20 million annually to $1 in the coming year. Unless Governor Eric Greitens vetoes H.B. 4, police departments will no longer be able to get state reimbursement for operating these checks.

A spokeswoman for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department says the department typically conducts about eight or nine such checkpoints annually, paying officers overtime to staff them. Now they'll have to do them with existing personnel or simply not conduct them (and with demands on city officers being what they are, the latter seems much more likely).

In St. Charles, KMOV reports, the St. Charles County DWI Task Force would have to cut its dozen annual checkpoints. Creve Coeur would also be looking at cutting its six or seven checkpoints each year.

As for St. Louis County, Sergeant Shawn McGuire says his department had already begun to move away from checkpoints toward "saturation patrols," which increase police presence in a given area, but aren't set at a fixed point (or stop all drivers). This move will likely only speed up that evolution, he says.

And that's exactly what the bill's sponsor wants. Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Cassville) has stated that he thinks sobriety checkpoints are less effective than saturation patrols, according to Kansas City's Pitch. Remaining checkpoint funds, the paper reports, will now be sent to that effort.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, though, is not happy. The group fired off a letter to Governor Greitens on May 9, arguing for the funding to be reinstated.

Writes Colleen Sheehey-Church of MADD,
Sobriety checkpoints are a critical tool for law enforcement to catch drunk drivers. Perhaps even more important, the publicity surrounding sobriety checkpoints through traditional and social media serve as a strong deterrent to drunk driving.

Well-publicized sobriety checkpoints let the community know that anyone who decides to drink and drive will be caught.... Law enforcement officers, who are on the front lines in the battle against drunk driving, need this tool to protect Missouri communities from the completely preventable tragedies caused by drunk driving.
Interestingly, both MADD and the Centers for Disease Control note that sobriety checkpoints, like saturation patrols, are most effective when they come with great fanfare. Their job is seemingly less to weed out the few bad apples who get caught up in the net, and more about putting the rest of us on some kind of notice.

So maybe the real solution here would be to slash the funding to $1, but keep announcing the checkpoints anyway. Think anyone would be dumb enough to fall for that?

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

comment