Call it a picnic with a purpose.
On a recent late afternoon at Craig Park in Fullerton, a few dozen people — many of them Fullerton PD officers — gathered under a canopy for food, sodas and water and dessert, followed by an old-fashioned relay race on an obstacle course.
Casual visitors to the park might have assumed participants were enjoying a typical picnic on a nice spring afternoon.
But the get-together actually was a big thank you from the non-profit Community Service Programs to the FPD for its efforts in combating drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Members of a youth group from St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Fullerton participated, as did employees of Colette’s Catering & Events, one of the city’s many establishments that sell alcohol.
Employees of Colette’s Catering & Events recently went through a “responsible beverage service training” offered by CSP’s Positive Actions Toward Health (PATH) program, which aims to create safe and healthy communities by reducing problems associated with alcohol and other drug-impaired driving.
The Fullerton PD is one of O.C.’s most proactive law enforcement agencies when it comes to keeping impaired drivers off its streets, said Dan Gleason, a program director at CSP, which serves children, adults and families in O.C., including abused children, struggling families, victims of crime, and those in need of mediation services.
“We’re here to recognize the FPD for its commitment to making the community safer,” Gleason said. “They’re great. Fullerton is really dedicated to (DUI education and enforcement).”
In his invocation, Martin Dinh, a member of the St. Philip Benizi youth group, told the police officers in attendance: “Thank you for the hard work you do day in and day out.”
FPD officers regularly conduct directed enforcement in the city’s bar-clogged downtown, and the agency is nationally known for its DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) training program.
Recently, the FPD rolled out another tool in its anti-DUI educational arsenal: a “Choose Your Ride” vehicle painted half to look like a taxi, half to look like a patrol car.
The message: Risk driving impaired and cough up roughly $10,000 over time following an arrest, or spring for $25 or so for a taxi ride home.
CSP helped pay for the colorful “Choose Your Ride” wrapping on the car.
“One of the major problems we continue to face is impaired driving,” said FPD Interim Chief Dave Hinig, who attended the picnic with two captains, John Siko and Scott Rudisil.
“You start looking at the statistical data and the extreme loss of life associated with impaired driving, and you realize how a pro-active campaign like this is an important component to helping us enhance the safety of our community,” Hinig said.
Siko noted that the FPD has more DRE-trained police officers — close to 40 — than any other law enforcement agency in Orange County, and said the “Choose Your Ride” vehicle is used every day.
Jen Pizano, operations manager at Colette’s Catering & Events, said the recent CSP/PACE training focused on recognizing when a patron is inebriated.
“It was totally helpful,” Pizano said.
Hinig told CSP employees and other attendees he was grateful for the recognition.
“I’m very happy to be here,” he said. “We love doing our job and keeping the community safe, and especially interacting with members of the community.”