I-Team: DUI cases decline across Kentuckiana

DUI cases declining across Kentuckiana

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – 2,041 – That’s the number of people killed in DUI car crashes in Kentucky from 2003 to 2012.

The I-Team has uncovered the number of DUI cases in the state are down - and have been dropping since 2008.

But those we talked to say the number has nothing to do with people drinking and driving less or taking cabs more.

Some say the answer for the DUI decline could be something that is putting us all at risk.

Jason Schweitzer was a father, a family man, and a beloved police officer.

“I grabbed his hand and I prayed with him,” Brett Hankison, Louisville Metro Police, said.

Hankison was with Louisville Metro Police Detective Jason Schweitzer when he was killed by a suspected drunk driver on Oct. 29 in Lexington.

“It was like living in an actual nightmare,” he said.

Schweitzer's death bringing the issue of drunk driving and DUI's back in the spotlight.

The WHAS11 I-Team looked at the number of DUI cases in Louisville. What we found was surprising.

“I think it's very unsettling and alarming,” Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell said.

O'Connell's office prosecutes DUI's.

“I think it's good that you are drawing attention to this. It would be nice if we could say drunk driving is going down because of Cracker Jack this or that and that's not the case,” O’Connell said. “We are very concerned about it.”

Through an open records request, we were able to get the number of DUI cases filed by Louisville Metro Police from 2014 to Oct. 31 of this year.

In 2014, there were more than 2,000 DUI cases.

In 2015, that number dropped and it dropped to a little over 1,000 this year.

“I don't think there has been an epiphany among drunks in the city of Louisville that they decide now they aren't going to drive drunk,” O’Connell said.

So what is going on? Why are the number of DUI cases declining?

“It's a combination of many different factors that all lead to a reduction of self-initiated activity by officers,” Metro Councilman David James said.

James is on the safety committee and served many years in law enforcement.

“It's a moral issue and they feel like the Chief’s office doesn't support them.”

When the I-Team asked James about the drop-off DUI cases, “that leaves us not as safe as we should be,” James said.

He was already aware of the numbers after talking to officers.

“They've been expressing that to me over the last year and a half.”

He says sometimes officers feel they are under personal attack when testifying in DUI cases.

“When they feel like they are under attack psychologically it's much easier for them to withdraw a little bit so they don't end up on the front page of the newspaper.”

We took those concerns to LMPD who believe the reduction in DUI’s is linked to more education and awareness.

“The prevention of hurt and loss is what's driving those numbers to go down,” Officer Lamont Washington said.

LMPD let us tag along on their traffic detail.

“From my experience, there is no way that my moral and ethical compass would allow me to turn a blind eye to any type of crime,” Washington said.

Washington says the department and the chief stand with officers.

Washington says some self-initiated activity comes when officers have downtime – something he says they don't have much of now.

“Self-initiated activity is down across the country. We're experiencing a rise in violence in Louisville that we haven't seen before that's also caused the calls for service to go up.”

After looking at the DUI numbers in Louisville we went deeper. We looked at the numbers across the state and they are down too.

We took it a step further and checked the number of traffic citations. They are down in Jefferson County and across the state.

In nearby Bullitt County, the number of DUI and traffic citations are down over the last 8 years.

“We don't have the manpower to do as much traffic enforcement as we've had in the past,” Col. Mike Murdoch said. “While you are out dealing with one DUI 5 to 10 may pass you up.”

Col. Mike Murdoch with the Bullitt County Sheriff's Department said they had a grant to run a traffic unit but that grant dried up.  He says the current climate in the country makes it hard to find enough officers.

“We can't find people that want to be the police anymore because they feel that a lot of the public looks down on police officers,” Murdoch said. “You see the numbers of DUI's go down because of the moral of the police department and the public.”

But in Louisville, Washington remembers a friend and colleague – Det. Jason Swcheitzer.

“That hurt is still real for all of us,” Washington said.

And says officers made a promise no matter what.

“I feel that every person that took the oath that I took and signed up for this job takes it serious and regardless of any political views they want to keep the community safe.”


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