Havre Daily News
The Havre Police Department wants to band together with other law enforcement officials to create a DUI Task Force Board.
Police Chief Mike Barthel said Wednesday, the budget and getting the public involved must be a No. 1 priority.
Sgt. Gabe Matosich said the plan for the board is in its infancy stages, and the purpose is to coordinate efforts of all local law enforcement.
Barthel said that a highway patrolman, a deputy sheriff, a police officer and an at-large community member will sit on the DUI Task Force Board. The reaction from local law enforcement so far, has been positive.
Drug-Free Communities coordinator Sara Mauer of the Boys & Girls Cllub of the Hi-Line said she hopes the board will work well and the members will try and aim a little education at the parents, too.
Barthel said once the board is in place, the first order of business will be to decide on a budget. He added a public meeting will be held soon to inform the public of the ways they can help with the drinking and driving problem in Havre and also get public feedback on what they think would help.
“We'll have a public meeting on helping to combat drinking and driving in ways to better serve the public and keep folks from drinking and driving,” he said.
The money for the task force's operation, he added, comes from DUI offenders who pay money to get their license re-instated.
“People who get their license revoked after getting a DUI pay $100 to get it back,” he said. “It goes to the police department for the DUI Task Force, so the tax payers don't pay for it, the offenders do.”
The money, he said, goes toward the purchase of equipment for processing DUI offenders. He added that some of the money this year he wants to go toward education.
Matosich said Wednesday he's just begun asking the Montana Highway Patrol and Hill County Sheriff's Office for their help. The members of the board have not been chosen.
“We're just in the beginning stages so none of that is set up yet,” he said. “Hopefully, within the next couple of months we should be able to get more into it. July 1 is when the fiscal year begins.”
Matosich added that there always was a task force, and with the creation of the board, efforts would be better coordinated.
“There's always been a DUI Task Force, but we're trying to get everyone organized,” he said.
Barthel added he wanted to re-implement the minor in possession task force as a result of the DUI board and its coordination efforts.
“Years ago, we formed an MIP Task force,” he said. “We performed staged crashes and mock trials for the kids.”
Barthel added acting out the situations showed the teens what really happened at all stages of the DUI process. This was part of the education Barthel said he'd like to use the money for.
Hill County Sheriff Greg Szudera said Wednesday he likes the DUI board organization efforts.
“I think it would be good because it would open up the communication on which direction law enforcement needs to take such as the laws on drinking and driving and open containers and the alcohol problem we have in this community,” he said. “It's important to me that we keep on top of anything that relates to alcohol-related charges because the last figure I heard was that 46 to 47 percent of all fatalities (in Montana) include alcohol-related crashes,” he added.
Mauer organized a “Town Hall Meeting on Underage Drinking” in April. Her reaction to the flurry of activity at the police department around alcohol issues is cautious.
“Until I know more about what they plan to do, I can't really say anything,” she said Wednesday. “I think having a board would be beneficial. That way there will be someone getting something figured out.”
Mauer added she hopes the police department keeps her organization in mind when choosing a community member at large.
“I think someone from (the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line/HELP Committee) should sit on the board,” she said. She added that she wants the board to keep in mind what was said at the forum when considering education tactics.
“I do think it would be helpful to start before middle school because there are kids that start drinking before age 12, so we're probably going to want to start educating before that,” she said. “I am sure there are some sort of activities that would be appropriate for the younger kids.”
Mauer said parents need to remember how important their part in the education process is.
“If I had a kid, I would be on board,” she said. “I wouldn't even think twice about it. I would be (at the public meeting) wanting to know what was happening.”