Law enforcement coalition to conduct checkpoints March 12

Because Pottawatomie County had the fourth highest fatality rate in the state in 2009, area law enforcement agencies have formed a coalition to combat those statistics and will conduct combined road safety checkpoints on March 12.
The Shawnee Police Department, along with the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office, Tecumseh Police Department, McLoud Police Department, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Pottawatomie County District Attorney’s Office and police in Meeker are joining forces for the combined checkpoints and community education programs that day.
During the checkpoints at various locations, officers will be looking for seat belt and child restraint usage, vehicle insurance and will be making sure drivers have valid driver licenses.
“We want to just let the residents of our county know that we care about their safety,” said Chris Thomas, SPD administrator of support services. “Too many people are dying on our county roads.”
Thomas said the Tecumseh area had the state’s worst fatality scene in 2009 when four people were killed in a collision along U.S. 177 in July. Overall, Pottawatomie County had the fourth highest fatality rate during the calendar year, and the local coalition of agencies believe that is an unacceptable number that must be lowered, Thomas said.
Tecumseh Police Chief Gary Crosby, who said his officers will be part of the coalition’s efforts to help save lives, hopes area residents and motorists realize officers are doing this to help the community.
“We’re going to hit as many places as we can on March 12 and work together as a team,” Crosby said. “We, as law enforcement, we’ve got to do something. It’s not just a Tecumseh problem, it’s not just a county problem, it’s everyone’s problem…Hopefully we can make the roads a little bit safer.”
Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth said by pooling resources, they can make a bigger impact.
“I think all of us said, ‘We want to protect and serve,’” Booth said, adding that’s why they formed this coalition.
While the roadblocks might be a nuisance or a delay for some, Booth said he hopes law-abiding citizens can understand their efforts and be patient should they encounter a checkpoint that day.
To make the process smoother for both drivers and law enforcement, motorists can be prepared by making sure they have their driver licenses with them and know where to quickly find insurance verification forms in their vehicle, he said.
The coalition also hopes by doing these checkpoints and providing educational programs about the importance of seat belts, all residents will increase seat belt usage and that can help save lives.
“Our main focus is safety,” Thomas said.
The Shawnee Police Department currently has a grant through the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office that is focused on underage drinking. The department plans to request additional funding that would allow officers to perform future checkpoints on an overtime basis, he said. In working toward that endeavor, Thomas said the coalition of law enforcement agencies decided to begin by coordinating resources and working together March 12.
Watch for updates on the coalition’s efforts.