Constable Danielle Stephany with the Estevan Police Service received a Van de Vorst Family Award. The ceremony was held at the police station on Monday morning in the presence of police chief and other police personnel.
The award honours police officers for their work to reduce impaired driving. Stephany arrested 10 impaired drivers in a year.
She said she didn't see anything like that coming.
“I was actually very surprised. You don’t keep track of these things, you just go out and do your job, so I was actually shocked that I had achieved that many in one year,” said Stephany.
MADD Estevan community leader Connie Hagel was the one to hand the award to Stephany.
“I’m happy to present this… because I know that sometimes it’s not easy to get impaired drivers off the roads,” said Hagel. “It’s a good thing that somebody is getting an award, but it’s a bad thing because that many people are being caught. They shouldn’t be driving impaired.”
Police Chief Paul Ladouceur congratulated Stephany with the recognition.
“That’s awesome work. It’s good to see that at some portion that we have to get over 10 impaired drivers in this city, but we’d like to see it go down, being the opposite,” said Ladouceur noting that the hope is that one day police officers will be getting awards for just three impaired drivers a year because the cases will become so rare.
But so far Stephany just does her best to decrease impaired driving in Estevan. She said she doesn't have any tactic, and her goal is to prevent people from driving while impaired in the first place.
“It’s just being out there and visible in the community. My biggest tactic at the bar-closing time is that I sit out there, make myself visible so people don’t. And maybe think if they might have had one or two too many, they’ll just see me out there and just choose a safer ride home and not take that risk. Unfortunately, some decide to take that risk, but that’s part of our job,” said Stephany.
She also noted that she feels that the number of drinking and driving cases has gone down in Estevan, which is partially due to various efforts by MADD and other organizations aimed at raising awareness.
“I also work as liquor liaison within the service. So that means that I go over to bars and we talk about over-serving and cutting people off and letting us know if people are leaving that are possibly thinking of driving. So it’s that open communication with the bars as well, that I think has helped, hopefully, curbed some of it, mostly the over-serving,” said Stephany.
The award that Stephany received was initiated by Lou and Linda Van De Vorst, after their son Jordan, daughter-in-law Chanda and young grandchildren Kamryn and Miguire had been struck by an impaired driver on Highway 11 in 2016. All four of them died.
The mourning couple teamed with MADD Canada, SADD Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Government Insurance and came up with the award that would recognize RCMP and police officers’ effort to take impaired drivers off provincial roads and highways.
Officers who charged at least eight impaired drivers in the past year receive a certificate of recognition and a Silver Challenge Coin. Officers who charged 17 or more impaired drivers during the past year receive a certificate of recognition and a Gold Challenge Coin.
It was the first Van de Vorst award Hagel handed to a police officer. She noted that she is soon going to Weyburn to give out three more awards there.