Binghamton Officer Recognized

Press & Sun Bulletin - Binghamton, NY
As the red and blue lights atop his patrol vehicle flash behind him, Officer Kevin Brown peers into the glassy and bloodshot eyes of the driver he just pulled onto the roadside.
For Brown, the Binghamton Police Department’s DWI enforcement officer, this kind of scenario can play out up to three times in a shift.
Most of the time, if they fail the sobriety tests, the scenario ends with Brown leading the driver away in handcuffs. He’s arrested parents, teachers, college students — even some people he knows personally — who are charged with drinking and driving.
“People tell me all the time that ‘you’re ruining my life,’” said Brown, 30, of Binghamton. “There’s also people who will pour their hearts out, and that’s something to consider — but it’s still not a valid excuse to drink and drive.”
Last year, Brown made 76 DWI arrests and issued more than 400 vehicle and traffic tickets during his weeknights patrolling city streets. He also works as one of four K9 officers in the police department.
Last month, Brown’s DWI enforcement record earned his first major recognition: the annual New York State STOP-DWI Foundation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving New York State (MADD) Individual Law Officer Award.
The annual recognition has been handed out since 1995. Twenty-six awards were given out this year in all — 16 went to individual officers; the rest went to law enforcement agencies.
“Everybody likes a pat on the back,” Brown said, “and this is one of those jobs you sign up for knowing you might not get one.”
Brown already stands to beat his record last year, having made 83 DWI arrests to date.
But for Brown, successful law enforcement isn’t a solo act. Every aspect of police work, from major investigations to DWI enforcement, involves teamwork between police officers.
“Nothing is just me,” he said. “This is department-wide and it wouldn’t be successful without that support.”
Broome County STOP-DWI Coordinator Chris Marion praised Brown’s record, but said that pales in comparison to the valuable experience he has passed along to fellow police officers as a DWI enforcement instructor.
DWI enforcement can require meticulous methods, Marion said, because if the investigative process isn’t followed to the letter, a case can easily crumble in court.
While that is true of any police investigation, detecting drunk drivers requires an officer to be especially perceptive, Marion said.
“Kevin can pick up on the common traffic infractions, but even better, he can catch the more subtle hues of intoxication,” Marion said.
Brown gives regular DWI training to police academy trainees and has given numerous presentations about the dangers of DWI for schools and other local organizations.
“We have a lot of officers in our community who are highly trained and with this, it’s especially important to stay on top of the process,” Marion said.
In the field, even when following the standard sobriety tests used by every police officer in the country, the stories Brown hears from suspected drunken drivers are hard to ignore.
It’s about following the law, he said, no matter who you arrest.
In October 2012, Brown investigated when fellow Binghamton police officer Christopher Stoeckel was driving a marked city police vehicle before he was observed to have bloodshot, watery and glassy eyes and smelled of alcohol, court papers said.
Stoeckel, 33, resigned that month and has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor DWI. The case is pending.
The hardest stories come from college students, Brown said. He thinks about the potential criminal record that could follow them after graduation, not to mention the thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees.
He once arrested a student athlete who struck a girl on a sidewalk, causing broken bones and a swollen brain, he recalled.
The driver — who blew a 0.17 blood-alcohol content, well over the legal limit, expressed remorse — apologized immediately and stated this was the first mistake he ever made. Brown believed every word.
Perhaps the most gripping element of that story, Brown recalled, was the student told him he only got behind the wheel because he thought he was the most sober among his group of friends to drive home.
In that frame of mind, Brown said, it would have been better to call a cab.
“There’s times when it’s hard for me to arrest someone because I can understand the situation they’re in,” Brown said. “But it’s not worth it when you think about the lives at stake when someone drinks and drives.”
DWI enforcement can require meticulous methods, Marion said, because if the investigative process isn’t followed to the letter, a case can easily crumble in court.
While that is true of any police investigation, detecting drunk drivers requires an officer to be especially perceptive, Marion said.
“Kevin can pick up on the common traffic infractions, but even better, he can catch the more subtle hues of intoxication,” Marion said.
Brown gives regular DWI training to police academy trainees and has given numerous presentations about the dangers of DWI for schools and other local organizations.
“We have a lot of officers in our community who are highly trained and with this, it’s especially important to stay on top of the process,” Marion said.
In the field, even when following the standard sobriety tests used by every police officer in the country, the stories Brown hears from suspected drunken drivers are hard to ignore.
It’s about following the law, he said, no matter who you arrest.
In October 2012, Brown investigated when fellow Binghamton police officer Christopher Stoeckel was driving a marked city police vehicle before he was observed to have bloodshot, watery and glassy eyes and smelled of alcohol, court papers said.
Stoeckel, 33, resigned that month and has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor DWI. The case is pending.
The hardest stories come from college students, Brown said. He thinks about the potential criminal record that could follow them after graduation, not to mention the thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees.
He once arrested a student athlete who struck a girl on a sidewalk, causing broken bones and a swollen brain, he recalled.
The driver — who blew a 0.17 blood-alcohol content, well over the legal limit, expressed remorse — apologized immediately and stated this was the first mistake he ever made. Brown believed every word.
Perhaps the most gripping element of that story, Brown recalled, was the student told him he only got behind the wheel because he thought he was the most sober among his group of friends to drive home.
In that frame of mind, Brown said, it would have been better to call a cab.
“There’s times when it’s hard for me to arrest someone because I can understand the situation they’re in,” Brown said. “But it’s not worth it when you think about the lives at stake when someone drinks and drives.”