By Megan Kennedy

March 11, 2014

Eaton Police Division Officer Jonathan Price was awarded the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) “Top Cop” award March 6 for his active involvement and strong determination to banish drunk drivers from the streets of Eaton.

Officer Price, a native of Liberty, Indiana, has been with the Eaton Police Division for over seven years. In that time, Officer Price has been able to create a name for himself with the number of Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI) stops he has made in town. The MADD Top Cop award recognizes officers who are able to notice drunk drivers on the roads, and send them to jail, ultimately making the streets safer for civilians.

The premise of the MADD Organization began when the founder’s daughter was stuck and later killed due to injuries sustained by being hit by a drunk driver. Close to Officer Price’s heart is his wife and child, and a child on the way. Being nominated for the award is “a great accomplishment,” said Price. “It was a surprise,” and the award reinforces his passion for OVI stops.

Nominated by Eaton Police Chief Chad DePew, Price has been the “top leader the past couple years.”

“He thought it would be a good award to try to get me since I enjoy doing it.”

Price said he thoroughly enjoys these types of traffic stops, “I like dealing with drunks … it’s different,” said Price. The challenge and excitement is something he enjoys, and it “keeps you on your toes,” he said.

Price has perfected his ability to notice signs of a drunk driver, whether it be swerving, running stop lights, or failure to use a turn signal. Price said the City of Eaton experiences roughly 60-70 OVI stops a year, both alcohol and drug induced. Of that number, Price had 27 of those stops (40 percent of the division’s total numbers). Price says the biggest problem with drunk drivers is they are “just not using common sense,” said Price.

“They think they’re okay to be driving, that whole saying, ‘buzzed driving is drunk driving’ people think, ‘hey I’m okay to drive’ … They think their tolerance is higher than what it really is.”

However, these implications are only the first step in a potential conviction. The driver must also pass a field sobriety test conducted by Price, but can also prove to be illusive. Price said he has experienced “professional drunks”, a type of drunk driver who can drink alcohol, but still pass a field sobriety test.

These “kinds” of drunks can prove to be a difficult conviction. Nabbing drunk drivers began as a competition throughout the division, a challenge Price took to heart.

“You want to take them off the street, and we get an award at the end of the year for it, so I kind of just ran with it, and it’s exciting just to be able to go out there and, I don’t want to say see how high of a test I can get sometimes, but you know, it truly is different each time you deal with a drunk. It’s amusing actually, because the field sobriety test, some are so bad, it’s a little amusing,” said Officer Price.

Officer Price has been able to develop relationships in the city, relationships that have relied on trust. “Local businesses will call that are open 24 hours and are like, ‘hey, this person’s drunk, you might wanna come check them out’,” said Price. This relationship has also led Price to take the initiative upon himself to drive people home from bars, if they are too drunk to drive themselves.

The highest alcohol level Price has experienced is 0.265 percent Blood Alcohol Content (the legal limit is 0.08 percent). Since Officer Price has been on the job, he has noticed a decrease in drunk drivers in the area, something he attributes to the Division’s pro-activity to the issue. “We’re stepping up enforcement when it comes to drinking and driving. I know the state of Ohio’s against drinking and driving,” said Officer Price.

“The main reason I do it, is public safety. I don’t want people to get injured, you know. The public out there, they’re the victims. If somebody drinks and drives, you’re putting other people’s lives at risk. I have a family now, so I would be devastated if a drunk driver did anything to my family,” said Price.

“Use common sense, think of other people before yourself … If [potential victims] have a family, you’re putting their life or their safety in danger. Think about that before you go out and jump in a car when you’re intoxicated,” said Price. Having that realization or consideration for others’ families takes an event such as a death due to drunk driving for a habitual drunk driver to have that realization. Unfortunately, that realization comes too late.

Officer Jonathan Price would like to thank his Co-Officer Craig Jones for completing the most tow-sheets for him.