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The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Officers honored for keeping drunk drivers off streets

  • There’s no glory in it.

    Stopping those who are driving drunk is almost never going to get an officer or a trooper on the evening news, or on the front page of the newspaper.
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  • There’s no glory in it.
    Stopping those who are driving drunk is almost never going to get an officer or a trooper on the evening news, or on the front page of the newspaper.
    Zone Sgt. Mike McDarby, of the Bath-based New York State Police, called it “the arrest that keeps on giving.”
    Not only is it a traffic stop that can take a long time to complete, with a breath test or field sobriety test and possible blood test, but the officer making the stop can often look forward to time spent testifying before a grand jury and even a trial jury before the case is disposed of.
    But Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker, who started out as a DWI prosecutor with the county in 1994, said that makes it no less important than the big drug bust or the bank robbery investigation.
    “That’s the (traffic) stop where most critically you’re saving someone’s life,” Baker said.
    Area law enforcement leaders, led by Steuben County Sheriff Dave Cole, gathered Friday at the Bath Country Club to tip their caps to those who’ve been most effective at keeping the most dangerous drivers off the roads.
    City police chiefs Sal Trentanelli of Corning and Ted Murray of Hornell both said enforcing DWI laws as a city police officer can be difficult because of limited resources.
    So it’s notable that the top officer in DWI arrests in 2013 was Corning’s Officer Mark Preston, with 18 arrests. In second place was Hornell’s Officer Brett Flaitz, with 14.
    Trentanelli noted that Preston wasn’t available to attend the event because he was training to transfer to the New York State Police.
    Murray said he was happy to see Flaitz recognized, because as an officer who works the night shift, “he probably doesn’t get the accolades he deserves.”
    Also on the list of top DWI enforcers were Deputies Ken O’Dell and Ken Bauch of the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department, Jason Dininny of the Corning Police, Troopers Eric Emerling and Sean Finn of the Bath-based State Police, and Officer Anthony Sanford of the Bath Village Police.
    They also took a moment to recognize the agencies with the most DWI arrests.
    Number one was the Painted Post State Police Barracks, with 84 last year. Also near the top of the list were the Bath State Police with 79, the Steuben Sheriff’s Office with 69 and the Corning Police with 64.
    Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, said events like the one held Friday are important because it’s easy to take law enforcement for granted.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We go to bed at night, and you’re there,” Palmesano said.
    Assemblyman Bill Nojay, R-Pittsford, also on hand for the event, told a story of how a drunk driver affected his life directly, killing a high school friend along with her twin sister.
    Baker said in the 20 years since he began in the county District Attorney’s office, he’s been to the scene of nearly ever fatal accident involving alcohol that’s happened in the county.
    He said the only thing that makes it bearable is that there have been fewer in recent years.
    Trentanelli said there’s a heavy focus on education to reduce the number of drunk drivers and alcohol-caused crashes, but “we know we’re not going to stop everyone.”
    “That’s why enforcement is so important,” he said.
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