Exeter PD announces DUI trailer

By Reggie Ellis

The Exeter Police Department has a new tool in the fight against drinking and driving.

Lt. Cliff Bush showed the Exeter City Council the department's new DUI checkpoint trailer following its June 14 meeting.

"It's good for officers just to get off their feet for awhile," Bush said. "There have been a few times I wished we would have had something like it."

The 24-foot-by-8-foot trailer was originally designed as a car hauler. Bush said he had visited many places that would not customize their trailers for police departments. As he was about to give up, Bush saw a sign for Central Valley Motors on his way back to Exeter on Highway 99. The Fowler business was more than happy to partition the trailer into a small storage area and a work area and built two computer work stations with cabinets.

The trailer will be equipped with two laptop computers, a radio dispatch, a bench to handcuff those arrested during checkpoints, a sink, a generator and high intensity exterior lights to light up the road or a crime scene at night. The storage area is located in the back where signs, barricades and traffic cones will be stored. The trailer was bought with a $24,000 grant from the Office of Traffic Safety, which requires the police department to hold at least five DUI checkpoints in the next year. Following the 12-month period, the department has the option of holding more or less checkpoints each year. Bush said the department averages about 100 DUI arrests each year.

"It's one of those crimes that people never learn from, even when they are caught," Bush said.

Bush said the department will dedicate a portion of the trailer's panels for a memorial of Exeter residents who have been killed by drunk drivers, most notably Casey Goodwin.

Goodwin was killed by a drunk driver on March 12, 2003. While on her way home from Cuesta College to celebrate her mother's birthday, Fernando Ochoa, 18, of Stratford, swerved into her lane and hit Casey's car head on. Ochoa had been drinking and was traveling at least 90 mph because he was late to work at a fast food establishment in Kettleman City. Ochoa's blood alcohol content was 0.19, more than twice the legal limit of .08. Casey was airlifted to University Medical Center in Fresno where she died from her injuries the following day.

The department will also have two green shamrocks decals on each side with the date of the accident that nearly killed one of their own. On Sept. 1, 2001, Officer Rick Grimsley and a police trainee made a traffic stop along Highway 65 near Firebaugh Avenue. While getting some paperwork out of the trunk of the patrol car, a drunk driver slammed into the rear of the car, pinning the officer in between and severing both of his legs near the knee. The driver, Aaron Estrada, 21, of Lindsay, had a blood alcohol content was 0.16, or twice the legal limit. Grimsley spent several weeks in a coma and then remained in the intensive care unit for more than a month recuperating from his injuries.

"Not a week goes by that something doesn't talk about it," Bush said. "It's always on our mind."

Bush said Exeter PD has been borrowing DUI trailers from other departments for the last few years. However, he said it was extremely difficult to coordinate an operation in Exeter during holidays such as Christmas, New Year's and three-day weekends when the number of people drinking and driving peaks.

"It means a lot less planning for us," Bush said. "All the equipment is already in their so we can load up and go."

Bush said the trailer will be equipped and on display at Exeter's Fourth of July celebration in City Park. "We definitely want to have it ready in time to show off at Fourth of July," he said. "Hopefully it will be deterrent to anyone thinking about driving under the influence."

Bush said the department is also looking for individuals or businesses to sponsor the trailer. Those interested should contact the police department at 592-3103 during normal business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The trailer can also be used as a mobile command center for gathering evidence at a crime scene instead of shuttling evidence between the scene and the police station.

"It's a lot bigger and better than doing paperwork in your car," Bush said.

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