Following a boost from a federal program designed to curb drunk driving during the holiday season, the West New York Police Department made three arrests at the end of December for various intoxication-related offenses.
According to Police Director Michael Indri, the arrests highlighted the program’s effectiveness and the quality of West New York’s patrol officers. Without citing statistics, Indri estimated that drunk driving was down this December from years past.
“I’d like to think that this program was very effective for us this year,” he said. “We made several arrests, but more importantly, it allowed us [to create] a lot of awareness.”
The funding, which came from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, allowed West New York and 95 other municipalities in New Jersey to field more officers during the holiday season under the slogan “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.”
Statistics show drunk driving is most prevalent during the holidays and the peak summer months.
In addition to the three arrests made at the end of the month, the department charged several others with alleged drunk-driving-related offenses while the program was in operation, from Dec. 7 to Jan. 2.
“I expect a lot of hard work and a lot of leadership out of these guys.” – Police Director Michael Indri, on West New York’s newly promoted officers.
Indri said his department’s main goal is not to arrest drunk drivers, but to prevent drunk people from ever getting behind the wheel of a car.
“It’s a national problem, it happens all over the place, and it can be prevented so easily,” he said. “There are a number of ways to avoid driving drunk.”
Despite the loss of special funds when the program ended last week, Indri said that he was pleased enough with the results to begin looking for ways the town can pay to continue the program.
“Between our new budget and some of our confiscated funds, we might be able to form a special drunk driving detail that would be similar to the overtime officers on the streets during the holidays,” he said.
Dept. promotes 10
The department kicked off 2013 by promoting 10 officers in a ceremony on Dec. 31. Indri awarded new badges to one captain, three lieutenants, and six sergeants.
The promoted officers were Captain Alejandro DeRojas, Lieutenants Monica Ramos, Joseph Cocciadiferro and Frank Steffe, and Sergeants Victor Martinez, Juan Nunez, Omar Gomez, Andres Rena, Denny Acosta, and Reynaldo Diaz.
“The promotion was very rewarding and gratifying,” said 16-year department veteran Diaz.
Indri said that due to budget struggles, the promotions were a special treat for the department, and he expressed gratitude to Mayor Felix Roque and the Board of Commissioners for their assistance.
“We don’t always have the luxury of making these kinds of promotions, but [these officers] are the future of the department,” said Indri.
Roque said that his military background made him realize early in life how important it is to reward hard work with promotion.
“I entered the military as a private and made it all the way to colonel,” he said. “A promotion is a way to say thank you, and we’re thanking these officers for their hard work.”
Indri said the promotions were only made possible once officers agreed to forego their raises for two years, preventing the town from facing a potential budget crisis.
“We negotiated a good deal with the police,” said Roque this week. “People pay for safety, but this way we won’t have to raise taxes to be able to pay these officers.”
While promotions often mean putting an additional financial burden on a municipality’s budget, this time the officers believed the betterment of the department should come before their raises.
“It’s a commitment we’re making to the town,” said Diaz. “By promoting us, West New York showed its appreciation of us, so this is our way of showing ours.”
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org