New Year’s Eve is coming up, and the Eden Prairie Police Department (EPPD) and law enforcement agencies around the state have announced that officers will be increasing patrols and watching closely for impaired drivers.
One EPPD officer treats every shift as if it were New Year’s Eve.
Chad Streiff, an EPPD patrol officer for more than eight years, serves as a full-time DWI officer thanks to a grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
As a testament to his effectiveness, Streiff has earned 18 Hat Trick Awards from the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, each accompanied by a hockey stick.
Hat tricks, in this case, represent three driving while intoxicated (DWI) arrests in one shift.
Streiff recently received his 17th and 18th hockey sticks for hat tricks on Oct. 7-8 and 22-23. He has also earned one Grand Slam (four arrests in a shift), and one Ace (five arrests).
According to unofficial city statistics as of early December, Streiff has 149 DWI arrests in 2022 and 861 in his career at Eden Prairie.
In the October hat trick, the first driver was arrested for 4th-degree DWI after crashing into a tree. He had a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of .15%, which is above the Minnesota legal limit of .08%.
The second arrest that night was an 18-year-old who was driving 96 mph in a 60 mph zone and had a BAC of .11%. He was arrested for 4th-degree DWI, underage drinking and driving, underage consumption and speed.
The third arrest of the night was a 23-year-old who was driving 108 mph on Highway 212 and had a BAC of .10%. He was also illegally carrying a loaded handgun.
“My main focus is on impaired driving,” Streiff said. “The state grant [emphasizes]speed enforcement, distracted driving and occupant safety, but mainly impaired driving.”
Streiff doesn’t make a secret of his strategy for spotting impaired drivers or where he looks for and often finds them.
“Westbound traffic coming from Minneapolis,” he said. “They are at clubs or whatever and they’re just coming through Eden Prairie.”
Eden Prairie residents typically are not who he finds behind the wheel – maybe one in 10 cases, he said.
“The majority of citizens of Eden Prairie I don’t find to be impaired,” he said. “[Most] of them people are passing through.”
A few aren’t even sure where they are or where they are going, he said.
He recalled stopping a driver that had passed him at a high rate of speed.
“I stopped him on westbound 212 near Wallace,” he said. “He was clearly impaired and said that he was on his way to Eagan.”
Streiff typically works from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. He is on the alert from the moment he pulls out of the City Center parking lot, the EPPD’s home.
What is he looking for?
“Sometimes it’s obvious,” he said. “You get the wrong way drivers, people with no lights on and they crash.”
Other times they are speeding, lights are off, or license tabs are expired, he said. Sometimes the driver stops well past a crosswalk, or they stop way short of a stop sign.
“(Impaired drivers) do not judge distances properly,” he said.
What happens after a driver has been stopped has changed over the years, Streiff said.
Speeding and fleeing
After pulling a motorist over, Streiff typically approaches a car, talks to the driver, determines if there is likely impairment and then asks them to step out of the car.
Too often these days “… they put it in drive and take off and now we’ve got an impaired person fleeing down the roadway,” Streiff said. “So, we do everything we can to stop that car immediately before they injure somebody else.”
Drivers fleeing police has become a more prevalent issue, Streiff said.
“When I first started here, if my department got into pursuits twice a year, it was busy,” he said. “Now we’re lucky if we don’t do it twice a month.”
Speeds over 100 mph also have become more frequent, he said.
“Every week, I get someone over 100 mph. Last week, my highest speed was 112. And that’s not including the pursuit.
“I’ve had them on Pioneer Trail, Flying Cloud Drive,” he said. “We see them on 212 and 494, it really doesn’t matter. People are just kind of getting more careless. And I think a lot of it just has to do with the assumption that we’re not going to pursue.”
When deciding whether to pursue a fleeing vehicle, officers need to do a quick calculation based on what is in the public’s best interest, Streiff said. “If I start chasing this individual, what’s the risk? There’s the possibility that he’s going to hit somebody else. If I slow down and stop is he going to slow down and stop?”
Recently, Streiff said a driver was weaving through traffic going 100 mph on I-494. “He’s already being aggressive,” he said. “I started a pursuit and when he went to exit off the roadway, I PIT his car out at the top of the ramp. And it turns out, he’s impaired.”
PIT – or precision immobilization technique – is a maneuver in which officers use the front bumper of their car to touch the rear bumper of the suspect’s car, causing it to spin and come to a halt.
Fortunately, many other stops are more cordial.
“Probably the quickest [arrest]I ever had was when [the driver]got out of the car and walked back to my patrol car and says, ‘I’m drunk, take me to jail,’” he said. “He got in the backseat of the car himself and I drove him to jail.”
When he does stop drivers and determines that there is impairment, Streiff said he goes to great lengths to ensure that they understand their rights. “I’m not trying to make things worse for them,” he said. “If they don’t understand something, I’m going to try and make sure they understand it.”
Drivers have a right to speak with an attorney prior to submitting to the preliminary breath test (PBT). “The roadside test is not required by law,” Streiff said. “The roadside test is just an additional clue or tool that we use to decide if it’s alcohol or drugs.”
If the driver refuses the PBT, the officer will still make an arrest if they feel the driver is impaired, Streiff said.
Minnesota law requires drivers to submit to one of three kinds of tests – breath, blood or urine. Refusing to submit to any test at all is considered a gross misdemeanor criminal offense and results in the loss of a driver’s license for a minimum of one year.
‘I focus on the good we’re doing’
Every year, Streiff estimates that six to 10 of his arrests are reported as felony-level offenses.
“I think out of those I get one that’s charged out as a felony and the rest of them get reduced,” he said.
While Streiff has too many arrests to keep track of all of their resolutions, he makes a point to follow up on cases that resulted in injury to someone else.
“I had an individual who was impaired, had a gun, fled from me, hit another car and injured a person,” he said. “I follow up on that case.”
The results aren’t always rewarding, he said.
“In that case, most of the charges were dropped and he pled guilty to something pretty minor and he’s getting away with probation,” he said. “So that’s upsetting.”
Because of that, he doesn’t follow up often, he said. “I just try to focus on the good that we’re doing.”
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