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Task force aims to keep drunk drivers off Ray County roads

Henrietta is the latest city in Ray County to join a task force aimed at getting drunk drivers off the road.
Henrietta joins Richmond, Orrick, and Wood Heights to form the Rural Alcohol Drug Enforcement (RADE) task force. Orrick Police Chief Troy Sims has led most of the formation of the group and has been designated the captain of RADE.
The task force will set up DWI checkpoints throughout the county in the participating cities. Each checkpoint requires 10-12 officers and lasts about four to five hours, according to Sims.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” Sims told the Henrietta Board of Aldermen on Saturday. “We get drunk drivers off the road and it’s not going to cost you anything.”
Sims said the group is currently in discussions with Lawson and Excelsior Springs about joining. Henrietta Police officer George O’Dell said Ray County and Hardin were asked to join, but did not commit to the agreement.
O’Dell said the Missouri Highway Patrol cannot join the task force but can help out in other ways by observing checkpoint areas for drivers who try to avoid the checkpoint.
Each city will be responsible for paying the police officers, but will be reimbursed through a grant obtained by the Ray County Coalition. The Coalition also has a grant that will pay officers to do compliance checks throughout the county to make sure retailers are not selling to underage drinkers.
Sims said a compliance check of all three retailers in Orrick last year netted a failing grade for all of the stores. He said warnings were issued. Two of the three stores passed a check in December and a citation was issued to the third location.
Coalition Spokeswoman Theresa Rice said a sub-committee of the Coalition has been working diligently over the last several months on RADE grants and funding, and said she is excited about it coming to fruition.
“It’s just going to be another tool we can use to keep our community and our highways safe,” she said. “It’s going to make huge differences throughout Ray County.”
Currently the Coalition is working to obtain more grants. Rice said even though the belt is tightening, they would still explore funding options.
“We understand that funding is getting more and more difficult because of the economy, but that’s not going to stop our efforts from moving forward to keeping our communities safe and drug free,” she said.
Sims said Saturday that RADE recently met with the Missouri Department of Transportation and received a donation of 14 reflector vests for officers.
Sims said the coalition would have the first checkpoint next month. He said Jackson County is donating all the equipment needed to run the checkpoint and will supply an officer to operate the equipment. Sims said help from Jackson and Cass counties has been much appreciated.
“They said you guys are doing this so we’re going to help you. These guys have been awesome to work with. They’re just excited we’re doing this,” Sims said while selling the idea to Henrietta. “There’s a passion for this and we would really like you guys to be involved.”
O’Dell said the task force has hand picked certain officers to work in RADE.
“We have gone out and selected individuals who are passionate about enforcing DWI laws,” O’Dell said. “Let’s face it, there are officers who could care less. They would rather watch people go through stop signs.”
“Even if I wasn’t getting paid I would still go up to Richmond and help them,” Sims added.
Some at the meeting had some concerns. Henrietta Police Officer Chris George said he has concerns with police officers controlling the board. Henrietta City Clerk Margie Long agreed.
“I don’t think the board should be police officers. It should be people from the community because who are you going to complain to?” Long asked. “You might complain to the officer that maced you.”
Sims agreed and urged members of the board to attend task force meetings. He said any city official or officer that attends three meetings has a vote after that.
The Daily News will have postings of checkpoints.

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