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Winter 2009 | Vol. 12 | No. 1
In 2009, Resolve to Strengthen Your Partnerships
By: Kendell Poole, Director, Tennessee Governor’s Office of Highway Safety
As we start a new year, many of us make resolutions. It is a great time to start new projects or ideas that may have never gotten off of the ground. Some promises we make to ourselves may be to rectify a bad habit that cropped up and we are trying desperately to break it (or at least curb it a little). Quite possibly, we simply want to continue a good thing that we have already begun. Some goals are personal, and some may be professional. I certainly hope that you have both.
My professional resolution is a continuance of a wonderful effort in our state to enhance our partnership with law enforcement. It is my belief that by taking foward this goal over the past few years, we have made our state safer and a better place to live. Research and evaluation of traffic fatalities demonstrate this success. As we added to our participation numbers and put our "mouth where our money is," we noticed an amazing transformation among law enforcement across the state. We proved that we could produce results by fortifying these relationships without just paying lip service. We backed it up, and it meant the world to the men and women who protect our communities every day. They began to embrace us with open arms as we traveled across the state virtually every time we were invited to participate in one of their activities or mobilizations.
Without a law enforcement background, I wondered how I would be treated as I reached out. My fears have dissipated as the honest and straightforward approach that we adopted continues to produce never before seen results in our fatality numbers. As 2008 closed, Tennessee appears to be down at least 15 percent in roadway fatalities in 2008, and that comes after a 6 percent decrease in 2007. As GHSA Members, we know that it takes the four E's working together to make it work. It was very apparent that we were coming up short in one of our E's, and by correcting that, we were able to create a synergy in saving lives that surpassed our own goals.
To understand our law enforcement partners, we have to get out with them. Participate in sobriety checkpoints. Go to regional and network meetings. If you have Law Enforcement Liaisons (LELs), use them to your fullest extent. If you don't have LELs, do everything that you can to get them. To fully comprehend what law enforcement officers are up against on a daily basis, we have to stay abreast of the challenges that confront them. The payoff will not only come professionally as your fatality numbers decrease, but you might receive a letter like Chief Dennis Cramer in Collegedale, Tennessee did just before Christmas, resulting from a highway office sponsored checkpoint.
I want to send a huge thank you out to the Collegedale Police Department! Last Saturday evening my fiancé and I were going home and came across a sobriety checkpoint. As I watched my fiancé stop our car and get his license out, I started to tear up. The officer explained to us what he was doing and asked if Nick had consumed any alcohol that night. Nick was shaking as he replied, "Absolutely not." We sat there for a few minutes in total shock and then softly told the cop "thank you." I almost lost my composure at that exact moment.
You see, Chief Cramer, my fiancé, Nick, lost his 3 year old daughter on October 20, 2007 to a drunk driver. This was a beautiful child whose life was tragically taken away due to a stupid decision by someone else. The man that hit Kasey was a repeat offender and is now serving 25 years for her death. Kasey's brother was six years old and was in the accident too. He saw every gruesome detail of the accident and watched his sister die in his arms. We have recently moved to Collegedale and feel very thankful to know that we have such a great police department in our area. This was the first sobriety checkpoint that Nick has gone through since the wreck. If all police departments did their job this well, Kasey may still be with us today. Please send our thanks to all of the officers and let them know we appreciate their hard work. Thank you for helping to keep drunk drivers off the road and keeping everyone safe!
Nick and Stacy
This letter reminds us of our critical mission and provides further motivation to continue overcoming obstacles and taking our enforcement efforts to the next level.