DUI Task Force a cooperative effort between North Hills police departments
Friday, September 6, 2019 | 12:01 AM
The North Hills DUI Task Force was established in 1994, but this year’s agreement between the participating police departments has an important addition.
It will now include language to reflect the law passed this summer in Pennsylvania allowing police from multiple jurisdictions to collaborate on DUI checkpoints.
On May 31, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that in order for officers to make arrests outside their jurisdictions, their municipalities had to enact ordinances under the state’s Intergovernmental Cooperation Act allowing such participation. The North Hills DUI Task force and others previously had acted under agreements through the state’s Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act.
The state legislature went to work shortly thereafter, however, and lawmakers wrote House Bill 1614 that was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf this summer allowing police departments to enter into operating agreements and participate in multi-jurisdictional task forces.
“The legislature did not like (the Supreme Court’s) decision at all, so the legislature then amended the police jurisdiction act expressly to overrule the court decision,” Richland township solicitor Donald Palmer told the township board of supervisors at the August meeting. “And what they said in that statute was that so long as you create a task force, which is a much simpler process, and the police departments authorize their officers to participate, then you can run sobriety checkpoints.”
The North Hills DUI task force includes Etna Borough, Indiana Township, Northern Regional, Ross, Shaler, O’Hara, West View and West Deer.
Richland Township Manager Dean Bastianini advised the board of supervisors that the attorneys for the municipalities that make up Northern Regional Police Department — Pine, Richland, Bradford Woods and Marshall — were in the process of reviewing the agreement, and the board voted to authorize the execution of the agreement upon the solicitor’s approval.
Pine Township solicitor Gary Gushard advised the board at the August meeting the agreement was circulating among the Northern Regional municipalities.
Northern Regional police Capt. John Sicilia said they did have to suspend the task force immediately after the Supreme Court ruling.
“We did put them on hold for maybe a month until we got some clarity on the ruling, and then the General Assembly came up with that legislature pretty quickly,” Sicilia said.
West Deer Police Department’s Brian Dobson is co-coordinator of the North Hills DUI Task Force. He crafted the agreement with the assistance of the Allegheny County district attorney’s office and the Pennsylvania DUI Association. Other than the language to reflect the new law, he said, the agreement is the same. A grant from the state provides funding for the program.
Dobson said they try to do five roving and four stationary checkpoints per year. Among the targeted areas in Richland and Pine Township are Route 19 and Route 8.
As for the number of arrests, Dobson said, it varies.
“The last two years DUIs have actually gone down, but driving under the influence of drugs has gone up,” he said.
The task force held roving checkpoints Aug. 31 in Ross, McCandless and West View and stopped 60 vehicles for traffic violations. Seven people were given field sobriety tests and three were arrested for DUI.