By John McDonald
At six-feet, seven-inches tall, dressed in a glowing yellow safety vest, Kelowna RCMP Const. Chad Lucash is hard to miss. Yet most of the drunk driver he arrests – his specialty – never seem to see him coming.
That’s because Lucash usually works far from the traditional night-time roadside checkstop that most motorists associate with drunk driving. Instead, Lucash takes the struggle against impaired driving to the source – bars and liquor stores.
It’s not unusual for Lucash to take down a drunk driver at 9:30 a.m. in broad daylight, usually right after they’ve pulled out of a liquor store parking lot, at a time when most other people have just finished their breakfast.
It’s not surprising then, that many of the drivers he will pick off at that early hour are the hard core alcoholics, often there to stock up after drinking most of the night.
Those incorrigible drunk drivers are part of the reason the rate of impaired driving conviction statistics, which had been dropping in the face of education programs and social disapproval, have started climbing again.
In Kelowna, the number of impaired driving charges has more than doubled in the last two years to 400 from 180, the direct result of efforts by Lucash and some of the rookie traffic section officers he has helped train. But the success is not just on the road, it’s in the courtroom as well. Lucash personally has more than 200 impaired driving convictions under his belt. He and other Kelowna RCMP officers are using good police work and being careful not to give defense lawyers something they can use to pull the cases apart.
That means everything from careful note-taking and attention to detail during the actual investigation and arrest, as well as being well-prepared when it comes time to testify in court.
“It’s no mystery,” Lucash says. “When you look at how prevalent impaired driving is, you have to make sure the members are well-educated on all aspects of it. Our job is to hand over to the Crown a package of evidence they can use to win cases.”
For Lucash, that also means becoming just as familiar with impaired driving case law. As one of the most common criminal code offenses, there’s mountains of it being created by defense lawyers who are trying to use it to get their clients off the hook.
“I tell my rookies that even if they lose a case, it all makes them a better cop at the end of the day,” he says. “It can be tough on them. You’re basically the only witness up against a defense lawyer who’s probably better educated than you, may be making ten grand and whose sole purpose is to make you look bad. He’s well versed in the nuances of the court system and his job is to make you look bad.”
Lucash says the tax-paying public deserves their efforts.
“They pay our salaries,” he says. “They have a right to expect we will do the very best job we can to take drunk drivers off the road.”
While some criticize the bees-to-honey approach of sitting outside liquor stores waiting for drunk drivers, Lucash counters that the right to check for sobriety of drivers has been enshrined in case law by the Supreme Court of Canada.
He has some sympathy for the very drivers he targets.
“I can say with confidence that 75 per cent of the vehicles that pull up to the liquor store at that time of the morning, if I run their license plates, they will have some alcohol-related incident on their records,” Lucash said. “They’re alcoholics, most of them, and they really do need help. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean they have the right to endanger others by their behaviour.”
And drunk drivers in Kelowna can expect more of the targeted enforcement from Const. Lucash and his colleagues.
“What we’re doing is moving away from classic roadside check stop where they light it up like a Christmas tree,” he said. “The public has the expectation police are doing everything in their power to assist in prosecuting drunk drivers.”
250-575-0521Drunk drivers in Kelowna can expect the unexpected from police