The Night Watch: A FOX28 Special Report - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

The Night Watch: A FOX28 Special Report

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A post on the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department Facebook page caught our attention a few weeks back.  It talks about Lt. Casey Lehman, recognizing him for making 100 DUI arrests in 2013.

You don't make 100 impaired driving arrests in a single year by sitting on the sidelines.  That's not Lt. Lehman's style.  His passion isn't lost on his colleagues.  "He's fired up about everything," says Undersheriff Sean Holmes.  "He's got such a skill at spotting the impaired driving."

What is it about Lt. Lehman that makes him so successful at tracking down impaired drivers?  To find out,  I was granted access, from the squad car, to the jail, to a ride-along with the Midnight shift on a busy Saturday night. 

One of the first calls took us to Goshen.  A caller told dispatch they suspect a driver leaving a gas station was drunk.  When we arrived officers give Lt. Lehman the all clear.  It was a false alarm.  "We'll find somebody eventually," he says.  "It's just a matter of time."

That night, a seven-person team including, Lt. Lehman, was on the streets looking for impaired drivers.  There were four officers from the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department, one officer from Wakarusa, and two more from the City of Elkhart.  They were out on the streets as part of the Elkhart County Traffic Safety Partnership.  Their overtime is paid for by grants from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.  

"It's very important, because it allows us to work together to combine our resources," Lehman says.  He reminds me of a lifeguard as he works.  As I watched his eyes, I could see they were constantly surveying the road like a lifeguard would a pool.  He was conversing with the photographer and me, but I could tell his top priority is getting impaired drivers off the street.  He's honed his skills during his eight years on the force.

When patrolling, he concentrates on areas with a history of DUI related crashes.  "From this light to the next one is where we've had two fatal crashes," he said to me as we head down Main St. near Mishawaka Rd.  He spends some time driving, and some sitting and observing.  "I'll usually give each strategy about 15 minutes," he explained. 

Lt. Lehman carefully uses his radar to catch speeders.  "I can just click it on real briefly and shift it right back off, so if somebody has a radar detector, it doesn't pick up on it," he told me.    But that night, it was a driver Lehman said was going well below the speed limit that caught his attention. 

When he pulls a car over his top priority is safety.  Before approaching the vehicle he shouted a command to put the vehicle in park.  After talking with the driver and performing a series of tests, Lt.  Lehman arrested the driver on suspicion of driving under the influence of a controlled substance.  

The arrest is the end of Lehman's work, though.  He spent a lot of his night transporting the suspect to the jail, filling out paperwork and testing evidence.  On that night, it took him off the street for about two and a half hours.  By the end of the weekend Lt. Lehman and his fellow officers have made 13 DUI arrests.  

"In this county we are very fortunate to have guys like Lt. Lehman," Undersheriff Holmes says, "but we're also fortunate to have our Prosecutor's Office to back us on this  They are very strict on impaired driving, and they prosecute it as such."

One arrest that night came thanks to a guy who had the drive to keep Elkhart County's Streets safe.  "We got an impaired driver off the street tonight," Lehman said.  "Which was the target of what we were looking for tonight."

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