Mothers Against Drunk Driving Kern County presented 64 awards on Thursday to local law enforcement officers, victim advocates, prosecutors and entities during their law enforcement recognition virtual awards ceremony.
It was an opportunity to recognize those who fight to put an end to drunk and drugged driving, help support victims of impaired driving crimes and prevent underage drinking, according to event host Jessica Harrington of KERO-TV 23.
MADD National President Helen Witty spoke of the tragic death of her daughter and how it got her involved in the cause.
“I came here because of someone else’s choice to drive after drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana,” Witty said. “My daughter wanted to work off some stress so decided to go rollerblading. I never saw her again.
“That same day another girl, who worked her stress off with alcohol and marijuana, ran my daughter down on that bike path.”
Law enforcement officers were recognized from a variety of departments including the California Highway Patrol, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and city police departments from Bakersfield, Arvin, Stallion Springs, California City, Shafter, Taft, Ridgecrest and McFarland.
BPD Officer Robert Tyo and CHP Officer Dallas Plotner each received honor of Top Arresting Officer. Tyo made 142 DUI arrests in 2019 while Plotner made 141.
“I’m truly honored,” Plotner said. “I take great pride in my work and I consider every arrest a life saved. I will continue to work hard for everyone here.”
“What gives me the drive to pursue DUI offenses is the unknowns,” Tyo said. “It’s the unknown if the vehicle I stopped and the driver that I arrested could have caused an accident and hurt themselves or others.”
Tyo explained the main pattern he sees in DUI cases are people taking unnecessary risks.
Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry said that in today's age of technology, nobody has an excuse not finding an Uber, taxi or a friend for a ride home.
Probation Officer of the Year was given to Samuel Heredia of the Kern County Probation Department. Heredia’s supervisor, Brian J. Mara, called him dependable, respectful and professional in his work while bringing a “great work ethic.”
“A lot of what his job entails is holding people accountable and also giving them the opportunity to address their problems,” Mara said.
Herman Caldas of the Kern County District Attorney’s Office was awarded Investigator of the Year and Nicole Iturriria of the DA’s office was awarded Victim Advocate of the Year. District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer presented the awards to her colleagues.
“Drunk driving crashes inflict injury and horrific losses to our community without warning, and oftentimes without remorse,” Zimmer said. “I am proud to be a part of recognizing the service of all of the law enforcement officers in our community to ensure there will be no more victims.”
KGET-TV 17 was awarded the Community Champion Award for its "Kern’s Sober Reality" segment, which highlights issues surrounding local drunken driving.
In total, there were more than 4,200 DUI arrests made in Kern County in 2019, which averages to more than 11 per day, Harrington said.
She added that someone is more likely to die of a DUI crash in Kern than any other county in California. Harrington also pointed out that Kern County was the second-worst county in the United States regarding that statistic.