Tampa Police DUI Checkpoints

Summary: This blog article is about major problems with the Tampa Police Department’s recent DUI checkpoint. Although the operational plan clearly required the officers to only stop every 5th car, for some reason not allowed by the plan, the officers on the scene decided to start stopping every 3rd car, then every car, then back to every 3rd car before terminating the checkpoint early.

So stopping every 5th vehicle would mean that only 20% of the vehicle were stopped. According to their own report, TPD actually stopped 48% of the 66 vehicles that went through the checkpoint. That was just the most obvious problem. How does that happen?

I mean – how does that happen? The ops plan clearly says: “Every 5th vehicle traveling Eastbound will be stopped.” It gives no reason and does not provide for stopping every 3rd vehicle or every vehicle.

How do we know this? We recently obtained the operational plan to the low manpower DUI sobriety checkpoint hosted by the Tampa Police Department DUI Enforcement Unit on May 22, 2016, at 2002 N. 17th Street on May 22, 2016 to May 23, 2016. We also received:

  • a “Comprehensive Roadside Safety Checkpoint Data Collection” form completed by Cpl S. Cragg showing that 66 vehicles passed through the checkpoint and 32 vehicles stopped and diverted into the checkpoint area;
  • an “Officer Activity Log” showing that the checkpoint resulted in three arrests for DUI and one misdemeanor arrest for possession of marijuana;
  • an after report explaining “a few changes in car patterns.”

We cut-and-paste the operational plan and after report below. In order to make the operational plan easier to read online, we added additional paragraph breaks.


The After Action Report for D.U.I. safety checkpoint on 5/22/2016 at 17th St N & Palm Av E showed several deviations from the operational plan. The report provided:


On the listed date as part of the FDOT DUI grant, a safety checkpoint was conducted in the area of Palm Av E & 17th St N. Six members of the DUI unit set up the checkpoint for a period of 1 1/2 hours to check the safety of vehicles traveling on the roadway and to ensure the drivers have a license, registration & insurance.


While conducted the checkpoint a total of 66 vehicles went through the area and 32 vehicles were diverted into the checkpoint. Out of the 32 vehicles that entered the checkpoint, there were arrested for DUI, and one for possession of marijuana. The operation was suspended at the end of one and half hours due all of the line officers had someone under arrest. The overall operation was a success due to most drivers being in compliance. The checkpoint was properly publicized through the PIO’s office.


The checkpoint had a few changes in car patterns, which were documents on the data collection form. At 2251 hours the sequence was changed from every 5th car to every 3rd car until 2312 due to volume of traffic. At 2313 the sequence was again changed from every 3rd car to every car until 2327 due to the traffic volume. At 2328 hours the traffic sequence was changed from every car to every 3rd car until 2358 due the increase in traffic and manpower being minimized to having subjects in custody. At 2359 until 0006 the checkpoint was suspended due to no personnel to conduct a safety checks. The operation was then canceled at 0007 hours.

This is the operation plan for this particular checkpoint:




Tampa Police Department is committed to the protection and safety of the citizens within and surrounding the City of Tampa. This function is achieved, foremost, through education of the public and enforcement action.


A goal of Tampa Police Department is to ensure everyone use the highways and roadways may do so securely, free from harm and personal danger. Enforcement is a tool to facilitate this goal.


The Florida Department of Transportation has paid significant attention due to the increase in underage drinking and underage DUI arrests. Alcohol related traffic fatality rates have risen consistently during the past years, and the reduction of death and injury associated with impaired driving mandates out unwavering attention.


The State of Florida, Hillsborough County, and the City of Tampa provide the roadway as a benefit to the public at large. Accordingly, this department seeks to safeguard all drivers through the use of a non-intrusive checkpoint to detect and remove impaired drivers from the road.


The members of all participating agencies recognize and need to remain focused on DUI enforcement and education. Tampa Police Department is committed to maintaining the effort to further reduce DUI deaths.


It is of note that Florida maintains the effort to further reduce DUI deaths. It is of note that Florida figures overall show an increase in DUI deaths across the state.


It is clear to Tampa Police Department that a strong stance on DUI and alcohol enforcement is paramount to present any more fatalities, and the educational impact of high-profile checkpoints on our roadways can do much to deter poor decision making and enhance good decision making, such as designating a sober driver.


The roadside safety checkpoint, public education, and enforcement activities are combined to achieve the desired reduction in deaths and injuries caused by impaired vehicle operators.


The Tampa Police Department is dedicated to aggressive DUI law enforcement. Zero tolerance of DUI continues to be a top priority in traffic law enforcement.


Florida State Statutes and Department Policy are critical considerations to a successful Roadside Safety Checkpoint Program. The goals of the roadside safety checkpoint are:


  • Deter the DUI driver and reduce death, injury, and property damage directly caused by alcohol and drug impaired drivers.
  • Circumvent traffic crashes by detecting the impaired driver.
  • Conduct checkpoints with the minimum amount of intrusion and motorist inconvenience.
  • Ensure the safety of the affected motorists and officers at the checkpoint.
  • Increase public awareness of the issues concerning impaired motorists to encourage community members not to drink and drive.




Goals will be accomplished through the implementation of specific working objectives. The checkpoint will be non-discretionary in stopping of vehicles. These objectives will be strictly followed to ensure a safe and a professional project. The following objectives are paramount:


  • Written uniform procedures will be issued prior to the establishment of the checkpoint.
  • The stopping of vehicles will be specifically random and not selective.
  • Sufficient lighting and warning will be established for safety of participants and motorists.
  • Participants will wear a uniform to identify themselves as law enforcement authorities.




Understanding the importance of removing impaired drivers from the roadways of Florida makes selection of suitable sites for roadside safety checkpoints fundamental. Generally, site selection is predicated on two factors: officer safety and need.


At each site considered, safety is of paramount importance for all persons involved. With officer safety in mind, the following factors must be weighed: the traffic density of the roadway, roadway characteristics, lighting, and other environmental factors.


Finally, the prospective site must be examined to determine if a typical roadside safety checkpoint configuration can be adapted to the location; for example, it is important to have a suitable area available to pull cars off the roadway to minimize danger to motorists and officers.


Therefore, the site of the DUI Sobriety Checkpoint will be located at the intersection of Palm Av E and 17th St. N.




Special care must be taken to provide adequate warning to approaching motorists that a checkpoint has been established. This notice will be accomplished with warning signs and marked law enforcement vehicles with emergency lights and outboard lights activated.


Warning signs will be placed along the roadside in advance of the checkpoint site to reduce subjective intrusion and safety.




Officers will have and use the following equipment for safety:


  • The use of portable reflective safety signs with legends stating “DUI Checkpoint”.
  • Use of traffic barricades and minimum __ cones …nighttime cone requirements for low speed roads at night) to delineate lane assignments and channel traffic.
  • Use of flashlights with orange traffic wants or LED traffic wands for directing motorists.
  • The use of marked patrol cars to heighten visibility.




The visibility of uniformed law enforcement officers and their marked vehicles will make the presence of legal authorities obvious. This serves to reassure motorists of the legitimate nature of the project.


This is an important aspect in reducing the intrusion to passing motorists who will be affected by the checkpoint surveillance. Signs will be posted at the site location and all officers working the checkpoint will be wearing departmental uniforms and reflective traffic vests.




Uniform of the day: All officers working the checkpoint shall wear their standard issued work uniform (short or long sleeve). Each officer will also have a safety vest, flashlight with orange code (or LED traffic wand), gun belt, and radio. No bike uniform or shorts are permitted.




The only authorized firearm will be the issued service weapon.

Other intermediate weapons shall be available as necessary.




For this operation, an Intoxilyzer 8000 device will be located at the Orient Road Jail and a Portable Breath Test will be at the location of the checkpoint to enforce the .02 (zero tolerance) law. The PBT will be used in .02 BAC violations only and will not be used in DUI investigations.




Marked and unmarked patrol vehicles will be on site, dedicated for arrestee transports to the Orient Road Jail. Arrestees will be seated in the back seat (caged section) of the patrol unit.


If an arrest is made, the arrestee will stay in the custody of the arresting officer until turned over to the County Jail.




Each participating Officer will be responsible for having the appropriate items and forms on hand to facilitate the checkpoint. Officers will have the items needed to conduct the check point.




Line officers and staging area officers will rotate with an opportunity to take breaks. If at any time during the tour of duty relief is needed, one of the appropriate supervisors should be notified.




Every 5th vehicle traveling Eastbound will be stopped. Should the traffic volume prohibit this procedure, the site commander may cease operations until and significant delay in movement by motorists has diminished. All changes will be noted by the data collection officer, with the specific times and circumstances being noted.




Command Officer: Sgt. Womack, The “lead officer” will coordinate all checkpoint activities including briefing, debriefing staffing, operations and overall supervisions. The responsibility of the command officer will be to ensure adherence to established safety procedures and compliance to all Florida Statutes, laws and regulations.


Staging Area Supervisor: Sgt. Womack will ensure smooth operations of the staging area. He will work with the Checkpoint supervisor to ensure a smooth transition from the checkpoint to staging area.


Checkpoint Area Supervisor: Sgt. Womack will ensure smooth operations of the checkpoint area. He will work with the Staging Area Supervisor to coordinate safety procedures and vehicle movements.


Safety Supervisor: Sgt. Womack will observe operations and ensure that all safety standards are strictly followed. The safety supervisor must correct all hazards immediately or suspend the operation until the hazard is corrected. The senior officer assigned at the SASO (Staging Area Safety Officer) shall be designated Safety Supervisor.


Lane Safety Officer: This officer is responsible for ensuring all fuses remain lit and cones remain in place. This officer is also responsible for the cleanup of any debris which may have been left on the roadway or the immediate vicinity.


Data Collection Officer: The process of data collection is imperative to compliance with the applicable case law, and to determine the effectiveness of Roadside Safety Checkpoints. Data collection takes the form of both short term and long term collection. This officer will be responsible for recording the number of vehicles that pass through the checkpoint, the number of vehicles stopped and the average delay of each vehicle. Sgt. Womack will be responsible for the number of violations detected, including arrests, written warnings and faulty equipment notices.


Checkpoint Line Officers: Checkpoint line officers will be responsible for stopping all vehicles as designated with the stop area. They will observe for signs of intoxication and other traffic violations. The officer may check for driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance on the scene. It is suggested that each Checkpoint Line Officer provide the following introduction:


“Good evening, I’m officer (officer’s name) of the (Tampa Police Department). This is a safety checkpoint. May I see your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance please?”


When a violation is detected, the Checkpoint Line Officer will direct the vehicle to the parking spaces located at the staging areas. The Checkpoint Line Officer will need to assist the vehicle by removing the traffic cones and then setting them back up. When the Checkpoint Line Officer is finished with the vehicle, he/she will need to assist the vehicle again by removing the traffic cones and then setting them back up. If an impaired driver is detected, the driver will not be allowed to continue operating the vehicle.


One officer will escort the driver to the staging area (parking lot) and a second Officer will drive the vehicle to the staging area. Further investigation consisting of the standardized processing requirements for the appropriate offense shall be conducted at the staging area (all standardized processing requirements will be conducting/performed on video).


When probable cause exists to believe that a driver is committing the offense of DUI, the driver will be secured and processed in accordance with Florida State Statutes and local procedures.




For the purposes of this checkpoint, the arresting officer will conduct a vehicle inventory and have the vehicle towed by the rotation wrecker company.


Roving Patrol Officer (RPO)


These members will patrol the roadways adjacent to the checkpoint concentrating on DUI enforcement. The RPO will stop only those persons who commit a violation while attempting to avoid the checkpoint. The RPO will have probable cause to believe that a violation has been committed or a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, such as driving under the influence, before the RPO makes the traffic stop.




Cpl. Portman will coordinate all media relations prior to the checkpoint. If representatives from the local media arrive on scene, all questions will be referred to Sgt. Womack. M.A.D.D., HCADA, and TAC will be notified of the operation and may attend.




The safety checkpoint will operate on Tampa Police Frequency F. Tampa Police Department case numbers will also be obtained from TPD Dispatch. If portable radios are needed, they will be provided and must be returned during debriefing.




It will be the responsibility of the arresting officer to maintain custody of the arrestee at all times. The SASO will perform duties as the backup officer to all officers making an arrest.


  • Persons placed under arrest will be handcuffed immediately.
  • The arresting officer will be responsible for all documentation.
  • The arresting officer will be responsible for all evidence that is to be impounded.




All officers are trained in the State of Florida’s “Standardized Field Sobriety Testing” (SFST) program. This program trains personnel to recognize the indicators most common in impaired drivers. The indicators may include odor of alcoholic beverages or other drugs, bloodshot/watery eyes, alcohol containers, drug paraphernalia, fumbling dexterity, slurred speech, admissions of drinking alcohol or drugs, and inconsistent responses.


D.R.E. Drug Recognition Expert


In the event a driver is impaired and blows under a .08 BAC, the arresting Officer will request Tampa Police Department Drug Recognition Expert. Sgt. Womack will assign a DRE to perform Drug Evaluation, to determine if the arrestee is under the influence of a chemical substance.




All personnel selected to participate in the enforcement detail will attend the briefing on Sunday May 22, 2016 at 2130 hrs. The operational briefing for all assigned personnel will be conducted at Tampa Police Department District II or at the checkpoint location.




  • All officers working the checkpoint will assist in removing barricades, traffic cones, signs, and other equipment as necessary to insure the roadway is safe for vehicular traffic.
  • All personnel will remain at the site location until properly relieved by a supervisor.
  • All officers that are in possession of evidence must properly impound the evidence prior to being released.




In the event weather conditions prevent the establishment of the Safety Checkpoint, officers will be assigned to a “saturation” patrol in designated areas throughout the city limits.




Sgt. Womack, Cpl Cragg, MPO Lyon, Officer Van-Treese, Officer Braband, and Officer Barlaug, will be participating in the Low Staffing Checkpoint.




Approved                     Date: _____                            ___________

Cpl A. Portman


Approved                     Date: _____                            ____________

Sgt. J. Womack


One Comment

  1. Anonymous
    Posted December 30, 2016 at 14:36 | Permalink | Reply

    I was a passenger in a car driven by somebody who was definitely over the 0.08 & who was pulled over for blatantly speeding. The dui sargeant told him he was borderline on on the field sobriety tests, but for some unknown reason(s), was not breathalized. The officer let him go with just a speeding ticket (which the officer kindly bumped down to only 9 mph over the speed limit instead of the 40 over recorded by several different methods) because the driver “did not act like a jerk”.

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