MODOT has agreed to continue giving grant money to the Joplin Police Department for DWI enforcements. This year, $149,721.25 will help pay for DWI officers' salaries, a new DWI enforcement vehicle, and other related costs.
But one local attorney says the nature of this grant money probably means unnecessary traffic stops.
"The goal is to have none," says Captain Rusty Rives with the Joplin Police Department.
None and done. Joplin's full-time DWI enforcement unit: Gone. But MODOT says Joplin police are on to something effective.
"These officers are doing everything they can to make sure our roads are safe for our commuters," says Mandy Kliethermes with MODOT.
Two full-time Joplin police officers are on special patrols for DWI. At least one of those officers works every day.
Joplin's DWI unit arrested 313 people last year, a 53-person decrease from 2015.
"Alcohol. Prescription pills," says Rives.
Sobriety check points. Joplin police say even though not as many arrests happen because of them, they still make a proactive difference by deterring people from driving while under the influence in the first place.
Overall DWI cases are down in Joplin, but numbers show many more repeat offenders. Of the 313 DWI arrests last year, 172 were felony DWI's, individual people with more than two DWI's. It's almost a quadruple increase from 2015, when there were 45 felony DWI's of the total 366 DWI arrests.
Police say continued DWI enforcements, and continued financial help from MODOT for those enforcements, is important.
"There have been other agencies that have had their grants pulled from them and given to other jurisdictions because that's not where the problem is anymore," says Rives.
Joplin defense attorney Roscoe Miller will tell you where he thinks the problem is at.
Miller says, "Is there a conflict of interest with this type of funding?"
The number of DWI arrests is one of a few other factors important to getting this MODOT grant.
"Whenever you tie funds to a salary, especially when you tie funds to the number of officers we can put on the road, they're going to be pulling over a lot more people than necessary, or they would without the grant," says Miller.
But Joplin police say any type of distracted driving is dangerous. It all comes down to safety.
Although MODOT distributes this money, the grants are federal money from the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission.
In all recent years but one, JPD's DWI unit has led the state in DWI arrests, when compared to other DWI units at other agencies funded under the same grant. Those other agencies are: Boone County Sheriff's Office; Columbia Police Department; Creve Coeur Police Department; Franklin County Sheriff's Office; Greene County Sheriff's Office; Jackson County Sheriff's Office; Jefferson County Sheriff's Office; Platte County Sheriff's Office; and St. Louis County Police Department.
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