SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Police Department is planning to create two new officer positions entirely devoted to DUI prevention.
Spokane City Council approved money for the anti-DUI program Monday night. Until this point, SPD patrol officers were responsible for all calls, stretching the department thin and causing a decrease in DUI arrests.
From 2007-2011, SPD averaged 580 DUI arrests per year. From 2012 to 2016, there were 368 arrests per year. That’s a 36 percent drop.
SPD officers said there are two benefits to the new program: There will be more emphasis at getting drunk drivers off the road as well as freeing up other officers for non-DUI-related emergencies.
"When they're tied up for hours processing a DUI they feel like they're not helping the community,” said John O’Brien with Spokane Police.
Mark Coladonato was severely injured in summer 2016 when a drunk driver crashed into a vehicle he was in with five of his friends.
They were driving through the intersection of Sprague and Sullivan when the vehicle was hit at 75 miles-per-hour.
"I just remember hearing a big bang and hanging out the window,” Coladonato said. “All I remember was waking up on the concrete. That's it.”
It took Coladonato four months to be able to walk again but the father of two made a full recovery.
"In one instance, your life can just change,” he said. “And you don't even know it."
Coladonato is adamant that nobody else should ever be hit by a drunk driver and experience what he did. He is in support of the new SPD program.
"Even though it's only two guys, I bet they'll make a difference," Coladonato said.
The changes to SPD required $140,000, paid for through a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.