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Sheriff’s deputy makes 100 DUI arrests in 2007

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Lee Wheeler made 100 DUI arrests last year. He is the first county deputy to hit that mark since 1999. - Photo by Rachel Brant
Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Lee Wheeler made 100 DUI arrests last year. He is the first county deputy to hit that mark since 1999.
— image credit: Photo by Rachel Brant

By RACHEL BRANT

Staff writer

Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies racked up 423 DUI arrests in 2007 and one man accounted for almost 25 percent of that number.

Deputy Lee Wheeler, of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) traffic unit’s Aggressive Driver Apprehension Team, made his 100th DUI arrest Dec. 23.

Wheeler recently received a divisional commendation from the sheriff’s office for his achievement and is the only county deputy since 1999 to hit the 100th DUI arrest mark.

“I’m hoping it made the roads safer without a doubt,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler originally set his goal for 60, but when he came close to hitting that mark early in the year, he decided to up the ante.

“I had originally set it for quite a bit lower and once things were going pretty good I decided to go for it,” he said.

Wheeler drives one of the department’s two Dodge Chargers and works the nighttime shift. While many DUI arrests occur at night, Wheeler said some occur during happy hour after work as well as other hours of the day.

“It’s not just narrowed down to weekends,” Wheeler said. “It definitely can be any time or any place.”

Sgt. Mike Merrill, supervisor of KCSO’s traffic division, said he is proud of Wheeler and his accomplishment.

“It’s fantastic,” Merrill said. “When you’re looking at it you’re looking at at least one DUI a day. He does a wonderful job and the 100 DUI arrests basically confirms that.”

Wheeler said processing a single DUI arrest can easily take more than three hours from the time of the traffic stop to booking the offender. If the person is uncooperative, the process can take much longer.

“From the time of the stop to finishing the paperwork, on average is about three hours,” Wheeler said. “If someone’s not cooperative they can last a long time.”

Wheeler added that it is difficult to deal with people under the influence of alcohol or drugs at times, but he feels good knowing he is taking them off the roads and keeping Kitsap County motorists safe.

“The alcohol definitely impairs their ability to be reasoned with, so that does make it an extra challenge,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler said he could not have achieved his goal without the help and support of his fellow deputies.

“It’s definitely a team effort. I certainly didn’t do those numbers by myself,” he said. “It wouldn’t work if everybody wasn’t pitching in.”

Marsha Masters, president of the Kitsap County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), knew Wheeler was trying for 100 DUI arrests and is glad he took 100 impaired people off the roads.

“I think it’s just great,” Masters said. “He’s been working really hard at it this last year and that’s 100 less people on the road.”

As for 2008, Wheeler will hit his five-year mark as a KCSO deputy and said he hopes to make at least 100 DUI arrests, but might try to get more impaired drivers off the roadways.

“I’d like to exceed my previous goal,” Wheeler said. “I don’t have a specific number, but I’d like to do more than I did last year.”

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