Highway Safety Initiatives, <i>Police Chief</i> Magazine July 2001

Highway Safety Initiatives

From the July 2001 Police Chief Magazine

By Joel Bolton, Lieutenant, Lake Charles, Louisiana, Police Department

Many people think the reason the post office stays open late on April 15 is for a deadline imposed by the Internal Revenue Service. There is a second reason. April 15 is also the annual deadline for entries in the IACP's National Chiefs Challenge.

The Chiefs Challenge is a competition designed to encourage law enforcement agencies to implement the common elements of a life-saving traffic safety program. National recognition is bestowed on those judged to be the best of the best, and programs that work are shared with other agencies. There are also some fun prizes thrown in for the winners. For example, the New York State Police is using a new, fully equipped Ford Excursion as a result of last year's winning effort.

Agencies compete against like-size departments. The competition is divided into police, sheriff, state police and other categories, all divided by size of their force. There are also awards for best efforts by departments in special areas such as youth alcohol and child passenger safety programs. The Clayton J. Hall Award goes to the department with the best overall program, regardless of size.

Within weeks of the application deadline, a dedicated group of people gathers in suburban Washington, D.C. Their number includes representatives from Nationwide Insurance, General Motors, Phillip Morris, the American Coalition for Traffic Safety, the Air Bag and Seat Belt Safety Campaign, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the IACP. For the next several days, they will spend long hours serving as judges. They have the arduous and unenviable task of sifting through the mountain of entries and rating each on the development and implementation of a solid traffic safety program.

Three judges review and grade each application, which must pass muster in several topic areas. The judges are looking for the basic elements of effective police programs: departmental policy statements, enforcement guidelines, public information and education programs, officer training, enforcement activity, innovative programs, and overall effectiveness at preventing death and injury on the streets and highways of their jurisdiction.

For each entry, the three judges' scores are averaged, and the application is forwarded to the IACP's Highway Safety Committee for the next level of review. Winners will receive a letter of notification later in the summer. The judges agree that every department that enters the contest is a winner.

It's not too late to start documenting your traffic safety efforts for next year's competition. Improved policy, public education, and enforcement is the intent of the National Chiefs Challenge, a formula that many departments have found saves lives, prevents injuries, and increases public support for the agency.

For more information on how to enter the IACP's National Chiefs Challenge, call Patricia Goven at (800) THE-IACP or reach her by e-mail at govenp@theiacp.org.