Every year Mothers Against Drunk Driving Michigan has a luncheon to honor officers who fight the fight to end drunk driving. Today was the lunch in Troy with more than 200 law enforcement officers, police chiefs and command officers in attendance. We are asked to nominate an officer for the award each year. This year’s honoree was Officer Chris Willour who has been the recipient previously. We are proud of Chris’ work to arrest drunk and drugged drivers and make the roads safe for the rest of us. Chris works midnights and was telling me that he made an arrest on a drugged driver at 6 this morning. Chris takes his job seriously and although his shift ended at 7 am he didn’t pass this individual by–he took the action he should have taken and made the arrest. We were happy that his wife could join us at lunch today as well.
The lunch is also widely attended by MADD members many of whom have been victimized by drunk drivers. The emcee was a radio host from WWJ CBS Detroit, Brooke Allen. She told the audience about her personal experience when her husband was killed by a drunk driver 10 years ago. It was incredibly tragic. But she is clearly a survivor and her story served to encourage officers to keep up the fight.
Andthere wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Officer John Cleveland of the Ferndale Police Department told his personal story. His 3 year old daughter was killed in the family van when it was hit by a drunk driver in 2012. I heard the story of Officer Cleveland’s tragedy last year when he told it at the same event. It is wrenching to hear a father describe the events of that day and after. The Cleveland family has channeled their grief into support for MADD and police officers arresting drunk drivers everyday. The family established an Oliva Cleveland Award this year to honor an officer engaged in this work. This year the award went to Officer Mindy Weingart of Troy Police for an exceptional number of drunk and drugged driving arrests.
As I listened to Officer Cleveland tell his story I was thinking about another drunk driving crash–many, many years ago. I had an uncle I never knew–he was killed by a drunk driver as a 10 year old boy riding his bicycle near his home. The driver along with 3 of his friends had been having a party in the middle of the day. After the boy was hit in front of his home, the car simply drove away. Later when he was located, he received a ticket but he was never arrested or spent 1 day in jail. My grandmother, who saw the crash and held her son in her arms as he died, suffered his loss every day for the rest of her life. I heard the story frequently as I was growing up and I knew the effect on her and the entire family. Later, when I was a patrol officer arresting drunk drivers, the violators would frequently tell me how I was ruining their lives by arresting them. I knew that wasn’t true–I was saving someone else’s life.
And so it is with these officers, they are saving someone’s life. It was my honor to be with them today, to applaud their efforts and to support the work of MADD.
Congratulations, Officer Willour–I thank you and I’m proud of the work you do for this community.