Stalking speeders and drunk drivers

The driver wrapped his lips around the portable breathalyzer and blew into it weakly. He'd been nabbed at a checkstop set up on Mountain View drive in Whitehorse Saturday night. The checkstop went up at 8 p.m.

The driver wrapped his lips around the portable breathalyzer and blew into it weakly.

He’d been nabbed at a checkstop set up on Mountain View drive in Whitehorse Saturday night.

The checkstop went up at 8 p.m.

Less than 30 minutes later, Cpl. Shawn Pollard had already hauled two drunk drivers into the backseat of his unmarked police car.

“Blow, blow, blow,” said Pollard.

“Harder. Harder.”

Seconds later a red “warn” message popped up on the screen – the driver’s blood-alcohol level was hovering near the legal limit.

“I’m thinking you had more than just one drink tonight,” said Pollard, writing him up a 24-hour suspension.

As soon as Pollard opened the car door another driver was escorted into the backseat.

His breath smelled of alcohol but he blew under the legal limit.

“That guy was fine?” asked one of the traffic cops, incredulously, after the driver stepped out of Pollard’s vehicle.

“Yeah, I was sure that guy was going to blow over,” said Pollard.

The traffic officer is amazed at how many drunk drivers never get convicted.

“The whole program is based on being overly fair to bad guys,” he said.

“The truth is that if you were to take blood from some of these people they’d be over (the legal limit).”

Pollard’s anger is justified.

After 21 years on the job, he’s seen firsthand what drunk driving can do.

While working in Revelstoke around Christmas time some years ago, he attended an accident where children had been killed.

“There were Christmas presents all over the road,” he said.

“It nailed me pretty hard.”

To put it further into perspective, the Yukon’s only two traffic fatalities this summer were caused by impaired drivers.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Pollard’s four-person traffic unit caught nine drunk drivers, made one drug bust and handed out more than 100 speeding and traffic tickets in Whitehorse.

From Pollard’s viewpoint, it’s his job to hunt out the so called “bad guys” before they have a chance to hurt anybody.

When he’s cruising around town, hip hop music streaming out of the car speakers, he may as well be a character in a video game.

When a driver runs a red light or speeds past, he pounces.

“Did you see that? That car just blew right through a red light,” he said, revving his engine to catch up to the offender. (This reporter didn’t even see it happen.)

But the officer, who joined the traffic unit because of his background in trucking and his love of driving, still considers himself a “softie.”

“If someone tells me that they wouldn’t be able to put food on their table because of a speeding ticket, I’d reconsider giving it,” he said.

Pollard doesn’t understand why the police are given such a hard time in the Yukon.

“We’ve taken an awful lickin’ in the last three years,” he said, referring to the media reports of the in-custody death of Raymond Silverfox and the two RCMP officers tried for rape in Watson Lake earlier this year.

“I’ve never read such critical media as I have up here.

“One person makes a mistake and it paints us all the same.”

Now, people automatically assume the RCMP aren’t accountable, said Rick Smith who has been an auxiliary member of the RCMP for the last nine years.

“It distresses me because the public is so quick to criticize – they don’t appreciate the complexity of what we do.”

Smith is a lawyer by day. He signed up as a volunteer member of the force to satiate a curiosity about how the legal system played out on the streets.

He and three other auxiliary members volunteer up to 500 hours a year as a member of the RCMP’s traffic unit. It’s a way for him to give back to the community, he said.

Last week Smith and his traffic partner Justin Maetche stopped a vehicle with a six-year-old who wasn’t wearing her seat belt.

The little girl was squiggling around in her seat and wouldn’t listen to her mother’s pleas to belt up.

The officers took the opportunity to educate the young girl.

“That’s goodwill,” said Smith.

But it’s not common for traffic officers to just hand out warnings.

Warnings don’t change habits, tickets do, said Pollard.

He knows his job isn’t as glorious or heroic as that of the general duty officers. “That’s where the real rock and roll happens,”

he said.

But he considers every drug bust and drunk driver whose been caught a victory.

“When we go out on shift we usually try to catch at least one good offence,” he said.

If the RCMP isn’t constantly doing enforcement, things slide.

And the public notices.

People were really upbeat about the RCMP’s weekend checkstops, said RCMP Sgt. Don Rogers.

Three people phoned the station afterwards – all of whom received tickets – to thank the officers for being polite and for pointing out traffic violations.

“That’s really positive,” said Rogers.

“It just goes to show we’re not all ogres.”

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com

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