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Petaluma police win traffic award — for fifth time

Petaluma police last week received their awards from the CHP and state Office of Traffic Safety at the Petaluma police station. From left, CHP Assistant Chief Sherrell Sutherland, Petaluma Officer Paul Accornero, Petaluma Officer Dustin Rodriguez, OTS Director Christopher Murphy, CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow, Petaluma Sgt. Ken Savano, Petaluma Police Chief Dan Fish, Petaluma Lt. Tim Lyons, Petaluma Officer Bert Walker, Petaluma Officer Rob Hawkins, Petaluma Officer Walt Spiller, Petaluma Officer Ron Klein and CHP Capt. Greg Tracey. CHP photo. Click to enlarge

Published: Monday, August 13, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 13, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.

It's a five-peat for Petaluma police.

For the fifth year in a row, the department was honored by the California Law Enforcement Challenge for having the best program of cracking down on impaired drivers among the state's police departments. (When it comes to five-peats, the New York Yankees did it by winning the World Series from 1949 to 1953 and the Montreal Canadiens by winning the Stanley Cup 1056 to 1960, so it's not easy.)

At a ceremony Thursday at the Petaluma police station, officials thought it was a four-peat. But a check later of challenge records showed that it was the fifth straight year.

The award is so significant that CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow and Christopher Murphy, director of the state Office of Traffic Safety, came to Petaluma to honor the city's officers, particularly its traffic team headed by Sgt. Ken Savano.

Farrow noted that different, out-of-state judges decide the winners, “so they don't know who won last year.” This year, he said, the seven judges unanimously voted for Petaluma's impaired driving program conducted in 2011.

“You're the best in California,” Farrow told a gathering of Petaluma officers.

Murphy noted that Petaluma is the only city in the state to have sent all of its officers for special DUI enforcement training.

Petaluma police conduct DUI/license checkpoints throughout each year, check up on habitual DUI offenders and those on probation, hold anti-DUI educational programs and coordinate the countywide Avoid the 13 anti-DUI task force.

In the challenge, Petaluma police also placed first for overall traffic safety efforts among departments with 51-70 officers — its fourth such honor out of the last five years. (It missed in 2009.) Santa Rosa police placed second among departments with 161 to 250 officers.

The annual California Law Enforcement Challenge is sponsored by the CHP in partnership with the Office of Traffic Safety. The CHP website describes it as “a competition between similar sizes and types of law enforcement agencies for the best traffic safety programs in California. The areas of concentration include efforts to train officers, enforce laws and educate the public about occupant protection, impaired driving and speeding. The program allows law enforcement agencies to set comprehensive goals, to strive to reach new heights in traffic safety, to share their experiences with others and to be recognized for their traffic safety accomplishments…. The winning safety programs are those that combine officer training, public information and enforcement to reduce crashes and injuries within its jurisdiction.”

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