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Murrysville joins DUI Task Force; Checkpoints out

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 10:32 p.m.

Murrysville's police department will sign on with the Westmoreland County DUI Task Force.

However, the municipality's involvement will not involve sobriety checkpoints.

Council voted 6-0 Wednesday to allow the police department to join the task force.

Sobriety checkpoints were an issue when the request was voted down 4-3 at a meeting Nov. 5.

Some who cast dissenting votes felt the checkpoints were an infringement of motorists' rights.

In a checkpoint setup, all motorists in a designated area are stopped briefly. A determination is made at that time whether a motorist is under the influence of a controlled substance. If not, the motorist is released. If DUI is suspected, that person is tested further.

A few citizens addressed council on the matter last night, but the room was not as filled at it was Nov. 19, when the discussion lasted about 90 minutes. At that meeting, council eventually decided to revisit the issue minus sobriety checkpoints.

Murrysville resident Bill Onderick said last night he was not bothered when pulled over in checkpoints in the past. "The police are asking to do a good job, and they're being held back from doing that."

Others continued to urge council to reconsider the checkpoints. Export resident Michele Dolan said she recently was involved in an accident with a drunk driver. "If it takes just one drunk driver off the road, it's worth it to have DUI checkpoints," she said.

Curtis Randolph, also of Export, said his brother is handicapped because of an accident involving a drunk driver. He supported council, saying he wants drunk drivers off the roads, but he doesn't care for the checkpoints.

"So many of our rights are being stepped on," Randolph said. "I hope you continue in this direction to keep freedom of the people first."

The task force began in 1993 and is made up of officers from several Westmoreland County communities. Grant funding covers all costs, including salaries of officers while they're working on the program.

Murrysville's police department will be involved in the various educational programs the task force presents, plus enforcement activities such as roving DUI patrols and Cops in Shops detail.

"These patrols and specific identifications could be more effective than the checkpoints," said Councilman John Cardwell.

Councilman Theo van de Venne said he was disappointed the checkpoints were omitted.

"I think an important part is being deleted," van de Venne said. "It's better than nothing. It's a start. Hopefully, we can add to it later."

Councilwoman Joan Kearns even tried to amend the motion to include the checkpoints, but her motion was ruled out of order because the issue of checkpoints already had been considered for a vote and was not part of last night's motion.

Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said Murrysville would be the only task force department not in the checkpoints, but he was glad to get into the program.

"I wish the whole program would have been approved. I think that would have been more effective," Seefeld said. "With what I had to bring to council, a portion of the program, I'm pleased that was approved."

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