Officer Jason Drake began his career of service as a Marine. After serving for five years, he obtained a job as a geospatial intelligence analyst for a defense contractor. While at the defense contractor, he worked on several high-profile operations.
In May 2015, Drake joined the La Habra Police Department. The first few years of his career he found traffic enforcement to be one of the areas he liked. In 2018, he became a top Driving Under the Influence (DUI) arrest-making officer for the agency.
Getting impaired drivers off the road is important work, says Drake, who was among more than 100 law enforcement personnel honored Wednesday, April 10, at the 2019 MADD Southern California Law Enforcement & Prosecutor Luncheon, held at Los Coyotes Country Club in Buena Park.
Drake earned a Century Award for arresting 103 suspected impaired drivers in 2018.
“It’s more dangerous than most people realize,” Drake said of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs – or both.
“A lot of people think it’s not a big deal, but all you have to do is look at the statistics. A lot of drivers are lulled into a false sense of security.”
Drunk-driving collisions remain a major cause of death and injuries on America’s highways, with over 10,000 fatalities and 290,000 injuries annually.
Although highway deaths caused by drunk driving collisions have been cut in half nationwide since 1988, “this success has created a misconception that drunk driving is no longer a major issue,” said Cristi Walker, a senior program specialist for MADD Southern California in San Diego who served as emcee at the April 10 event.
“However, as we all know, this is not the case,” Walker said.
The top DUI arresting officer in Orange County in 2018 was Officer Grant Hasselback of the Huntington Beach PD, with 370 DUI arrests.
“Deuce” Awards were given to officers and deputies with 25-49 arrests.
“MADD” Awards were bestowed on those with 50-99 arrests.
And “Century” Awards were given to those with 100 or more DUI arrests.
Prosecutors also were honored at the ceremony.
Walker called impaired driving a 100-percent preventable crime, and said MADD’s goal is to change the “apathetic culture” surrounding drinking and driving.
MADD provides many services to all Southern California residents, including servicing victims and families of drunk and drugged driving crashes at no cost, lobbying to support stronger drunk driving laws, and delivering underage drinking prevention strategies to thousands of underage youth and parents.
In 2019, MADD will be adding death notification training to its services.
The non-profit also offers court-mandated victim impact panels for DUI offenders to help them recognize and internalize how their choice to abuse driving under the influence harms their community.
“MADD’s mission and focus has not wavered over the years,” Walker said. “These tragic deaths and injuries continue to drive our efforts to end drunk driving, help, fight drugged driving, support the victims of this violent crime, and prevent underage drinking.
During the ceremony, a moment of silence was held for California Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Licon, who was killed April 6, 2019, by a suspected impaired driver following a traffic stop in Lake Elsinore.
The 27-year CHP veteran is survived by a wife and two children.
“No job is more dangerous or more thankless than an officer on duty,” Walker said.
Victim speaker Nadine Dorado, a MADD Southern California volunteer, suffered a crushed spine, injured neck, and other life-threatening injuries when she was involved in a four-vehicle car crash caused by a drunk driver on April 30, 2017.
“All I could think of was, ‘This is it. My life is over,’’’ Dorado said.
Emergency spine surgery saved her life – and mobility.
“Even after all the surgeries I’ve had and all the treatments I’ve received, I’m saddened to see that my life will never ever be the same since the crash,” Dorado said. “I was fortunate enough to become a part of (MADD), which has truly helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Officer Drake joined the Marines to give him a better chance at becoming a police officer, a lifelong passion. At age 19, he knew he wanted to be a police officer, but was told he needed more life experience.
“I know DUI (arrests) are important to the department,” said Drake, noting that the agency’s only officer who died in the line of duty, Michael Anthony Osornio, was killed by a drunk driver on Oct. 31, 1993. The driver, traveling at a high rate of speed, ran a red light and broadsided Osornio’s patrol car at the intersection of La Habra Boulevard and Beach Boulevard.
“At first I wasn’t comfortable making DUI arrests – there is a lot of paperwork involved, and a lot of rules you need to follow when making contact with a suspect – and I figured the best way was to go out and do a lot of them,” Drake said.
Drake said he was originally aiming for a 25-arrest MADD pin in 2018 throughout the course of his 2 p.m.-to-2:30 a.m. shift for eight months, and graveyard shift on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for four months.
Drake said his strategy of apprehending impaired drivers was to look for motorists driving erratically and not like the other cars on the road.