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Emily Welker, Published July 07 2013

Moorhead police officer takes pride in keeping drunken drivers off road

MOORHEAD – Officer Chad Anderson wasn’t surprised to find he’d arrested 63 people last year for drinking and driving.

“I also had the highest number of pursuits in the department,” said Anderson wryly, noting that drinking affects judgment not just in the decision to get behind the wheel but in what happens afterward.

Anderson doesn’t start his daily shift hoping for records, accolades or awards.

But that’s what happened in 2012, making him one of Minnesota’s “DWI Enforcer All-Stars,” recognized for outstanding performance in enforcement and prosecution of drunken driving.

Minnesota had 104 deaths from drunken driving crashes, or 26 percent of all crashes statewide in 2012.

Law enforcement officials logged 28,418 arrests from drunken driving last year, each of which Anderson said fall into the category of the most likely type to end with the perpetrator resisting arrest.

“It’s an extremely stressful situation,” he said.

One of the most difficult cases was a drunken driver who crashed his car in Fargo one winter, then ran down a bike path into Moorhead and tried to run across the river – and fell in over and over again as he tried to continue his flight from law enforcement.

“We were lucky he popped back up, and we were able to drag him back up on shore (since) he didn’t want to take the rope from us,” Anderson said.

It’s not as though he’s out there targeting cars, hoping they’re driven by a drunken person, Anderson says. But he does consider himself proactive when it comes to traffic enforcement in spite of the fact it’s usually one of the more thankless tasks that faces a police officer.

“If it’s 2:45 a.m., and you see somebody swerving all over the road, you’re probably going to be there (at work) for another hour” after you pull the driver over, he said.

But the risk of letting someone go just isn’t something he can live with, he said.

He recalls a single-vehicle crash in which the drunk driver ran into an electrical pole. The man was so drunk, Anderson said, he didn’t seem to comprehend he was in danger of fatal electrocution.

“Trying to get an impaired person to stay in there and cooperate – that’s hard,” he said. “At .20 (blood alcohol) levels and higher, it’s almost like they don’t comprehend what’s going on.”

That can make for some pretty gross moments, too.

But the disturbing incidents he comes across aren’t enough for him to consider passing over someone who appears to be driving impaired during his shift.

“If I started feeling that way, I’d probably better start looking for another line of work,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541