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Iowa law enforcement recognized for excellence in traffic safety

cited-police-featured1DES MOINES – The 26th Annual Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB) Annual Conference is currently underway in Okoboji, with over 250 attendees representing law enforcement agencies from across the state.

Thirteen law enforcement officials and agencies will be awarded the Commissioner’s Award for Excellence in Traffic Safety during today’s luncheon.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety annually recognizes outstanding contributions to traffic safety based on commitment and service provided beyond routine duties, creativity of approach, and effectiveness of a traffic safety program or campaign in 2015.

The 2016 Recipients include:

In the fall of 2014, Mr. Brown initiated a conversation with the Iowa Department of Public Safety in regard to the enhancement of radio frequencies to utilize and strengthen his morning and afternoon traffic reports on Newsradio 10-40 WHO. This initial conversation morphed into him requesting traffic safety information and other data from the GTSB to convey to listeners during their morning and evening commutes. During 2015 he covered information about sTEP Waves, dangerous intersections in central Iowa, bicycle safety, teen drivers, alcohol-impairment, motorcycles, car/deer crashes, distracted driving and winter driving tips. Mr. Brown’s efforts have undoubtedly made central Iowa roadways safer through his personal flair and this media exposure.

AUTUMN MORRISON, Manager, Casey’s General Store
Ms. Morrison was approached by Van Meter Police Chief William Daggett who was looking for a way to positively address the use of seat belts in the community. The police department was a new sTEP grantee and he wanted to introduce the program in a positive way. She immediately and enthusiastically suggested rewarding belted drivers with Casey’s cookies. During the November sTEP Wave, police officers handed out cards redeemable for a cookie from Casey’s along with a candy cane. Ms. Morrison’s willingness to step forward, help formulate and implement the plan made the event possible and had a positive impact on the Van Meter Police Department’s community relationships and enforcement activities.

Trooper Engstler is a member of the Iowa State Patrol’s Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program and performs commercial motor vehicle inspections with a mission to identify and remove unsafe vehicles and drivers from the roadways. In 2015, he performed 599 commercial motor vehicle inspections and placed 164 drivers and 12 vehicles out of service for serious safety issues, most notably for hours of service violations and log falsifications that increase the risk of crashes resulting in injury or death. Trooper Engstler’s actions demonstrate his commitment to traffic safety.

DEPUTY KENT GRIES, Guthrie County Sheriff’s Office
In 2015, Deputy Gries led the Guthrie County Sheriff’s Office with 90 arrests including 10 felony arrests, 32 OWIs, and 50 drug arrests – which included 19 drug impaired drivers. He has amassed over 200 drug arrests in the last 4 years. He issued 18 citations for open containers or minors in possession. He issued citations or arrested 26 unlicensed drivers, issued 183 traffic citations and 334 warnings. He provides leadership to younger deputies by practicing field sobriety tests with them and he has handed over his own OWI stops and assisted them to help the less experienced deputies to gain confidence. He started and administers a Facebook page that has gained to 2,000 followers since it started in 2015. He developed and implemented a citizen’s academy. He donated his own time and money to get the 7-night/21-hour class off the ground. The class was well received and more are planned including one for high school students. Deputy Gries is the essence of dedication.

Senior Police Officer Mark Harmon has been a catalyst in developing the Altoona Traffic Enforcement Unit. In addition to his regular patrol duties he schedules traffic enforcement activities, conducts traffic surveys, collects data, and coordinates traffic education. He emphasizes not only seatbelt enforcement but also pedestrian and bicycle safety. He leads the department in traffic enforcement activity and in 2015 he conducted 620 traffic stops, wrote 811 citations, and answered 1,389 calls for service. Seatbelt usage in Altoona has risen from 89% in 2012 when he became the GTSB coordinator to 93% in 2015. He currently serves as Vice-Chairman of the Central Iowa Traffic Safety Task Force. Officer Harmon demonstrates his dedication to traffic safety on a daily basis.

DEPUTY SEAN HARTMAN, Bremer County Sheriff’s Office
Deputy Hartman has a passion to keep the roadways safe in Bremer County by getting impaired drivers off the roadway. In 2015 he made 56 contacts involving alcohol or drugs including 41 OWI arrests, one OWI drug arrest, seven OWI tests with no arrest, one .02 violation, two underage possessions, two public intoxication arrests, and two open container citations. Deputy Hartman is committed to making the Bremer County roadways safer for the motoring public.

COMMANDER GEOFF HUFF, Ames Police Department
Commander Huff has effectively led the Ames Area Multi-Disciplinary Safety Team since its inception on July 1, 2011. He has tackled difficult issues, including wrong way movements on US 30 which involve use of emerging technology, interagency notifications and communication, and both short and long-term countermeasures. His regular meetings facilitate continuing cooperation within and across disciplines in work zone traffic control on construction and maintenance projects, traffic management for major events such as ISU football games and the Farm Progress shows, emergency management and highway closures, pedestrian and bicycle safety, and special enforcement events. Commander Huff’s strong people skills permit him to lead through difficult and sometimes contentious issues.

Trooper Kurtz is the Safety Education Officer for Northwest Iowa. In addition to his regular duties he has taken a proactive approach to community outreach. On his own initiative, he has developed the following options for sharing traffic safety messages and information:

A Dickinson County news blog often featuring “Ask a Trooper” where he answers questions about everything traffic safety related and is made available to all print media in the area.
A Twitter account used to share articles and information on traffic safety and alert area drivers to “real time” accident information and road closures.
A Facebook account to share articles and traffic safety messages with followers across the state and beyond.
A Soundcloud account to record audio traffic safety messages that are shared as “The Patrol Post” with area radio stations. This is provided free of charge as a public safety service sponsored by each station.
A Youtube channel that is made available to local high schools and colleges in an attempt to reach out to young drivers and remind them of safe driving habits and dangers of poor decisions. He creates each video on his own, using his knowledge and experience to address traffic safety topics.
Retired Police Officer Mebus served as an Iowa City officer for 26 years. During that time, he demonstrated an outstanding work ethic and was willing to go above and beyond the standard to assist the citizens of Iowa City as well as his coworkers. He served as a member of the Crisis Negotiation Team, was a Technical Accident Investigator, a Patrol Rifle Operator, and GTSB Coordinator. He became involved in the State Child Passenger Safety program in 2000. He joined the Safe Kids Johnson County Steering Committee and he was asked to become a statewide certified instructor in 2001. Since his certification he has trained CPS Techs all over the state and helped keep them certified by reassessing their skills on a yearly basis. Many of the hours he dedicates to helping the state program and area parents are on his own time. He rarely is unavailable to help when called upon. Officer Mebus will be best remembered for his passion for law enforcement in general, and his interactions with the juvenile community in particular.

Trooper Saldivar possesses a true passion for traffic safety and an extremely positive work ethic. He aggressively searches for the drunk and drugged drivers. He had 21 driving while drugged and 11 OWI arrests in 2015. He also had 25 open container arrests and 11 other alcohol-related offenses. He issued 152 seat belt citations and staying true to the Click It or Ticket campaign, he only wrote six warnings. That is a citation rate of over 96% in addressing these life-saving violations. He is bi-lingual and is often called upon by his peers in the highway patrol and other agencies to assist in investigations, including criminal and traffic offenses. Trooper Saldivar demonstrates the highest qualities of commitment, dedication, compassion, and professionalism.

Besides his regular enforcement duties, Trooper Trimble is a Technical Accident Investigator and a Drug Recognition Expert. He is often quick to volunteer for additional training and special assignments that will enhance his job performance and satisfaction. In 2015 he performed 913 traffic stops that resulted in 1,317 written enforcement actions: 568 were for speed and 82 were for seat belts. He took 23 intoxicated drivers off of Iowa’s roadways and filed 38 charges related to narcotic violations. In addition, he completed 40 DRE Evaluations, two technical investigations, and assisted on four others. He consistently makes himself available to his fellow officers, on and off duty, to share his expertise to aid others with their cases. Trooper Trimble displays a positive “can do” approach and has received multiple letters of praise from the public commenting on his professionalism and pleasant demeanor when dealing with the motoring public.

DEPUTY SHERIFF JACOB WINGERT, Plymouth County Sheriff’s Office
Deputy Wingert has been a K-9 handler since 2013 and brings a level of dedication and enthusiasm that few can match. He has worked long and tireless hours with his canine partner Gulliver, most of which were on his own time, resulting in a K9 program that is second to none. He is one of the top performers when it comes to traffic stops, motorist assists, OWI and drugged driving arrests. Deputy Wingert and Gulliver have no doubt made the roads of Plymouth County a safer place for all motorists.

The Iowa GTSB would like to recognize the outstanding initiative and effort by Iowa State Patrol District 5 located in Cherokee, District 7 located in Fort Dodge, District 9 located in Cedar Falls, and District 10 located in Oelwein. In 2015, these districts took the initiative to create an ongoing corridor project targeting Highway 20 across the State of Iowa. During that time, 17 projects were conducted from border to border. Over 900 combined hours were expended to make this project a success by targeting high volume traffic flows in an attempt to reduce speeds and make this roadway safer. During the 17 projects, over 2,300 contacts were generated including over 1,300 speed violations. This corridor project is now being utilized as a model nationally by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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