Eric Stewart 3.28.22

Loveland Police Department Deputy Chief Eric Stewart announces the agency will undergo an outside review of its DUI enforcement policies and practices. The department has been criticized for recent arrests of residents who had little or no alcohol in their systems.

The Loveland Police Department will undergo a professional review of its policies and practices for DUI enforcement, the agency announced Monday. 

The department has been the subject of lawsuits filed earlier this year when two people claimed they were arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, even though they had little or no alcohol in their systems. 

The department's announcement didn't reference specific cases, but incoming Interim Chief Eric Stewart, who will take on the role April 2 and is currently Loveland's deputy chief, acknowledged the recent criticism of "our department's handling of impaired driving cases."

"We view this professional review as part of our commitment to continuous improvement on behalf of those we serve," he said, though he added the review isn't a comment by the department on the criticisms' validity.

The outside review of the department's DUI enforcement will cover the department's "policies and procedures, overall strategy, and status and outcomes of current and recent enforcement efforts," according to a news release.

Harris Elias, a Fort Collins resident, said he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in January 2020 even though breath and blood tests showed he did not have any intoxicants in his system. Prosecutors dropped the criminal case against him a few months after his arrest when the blood test results came in.

Emily Dutka said she was arrested in May 2020, with the officer claiming Dutka smelled of alcohol and her eyes were bloodshot. A blood test showed Dutka had a blood alcohol level of 0.027, below the legal limit of 0.08. 

Dutka claimed the arrest caused problems with a planned move overseas, where her family was living because of her husband's job, as well as financial stress and strain on her relationships with her family.

The Police Department previously defended Dutka's arrest, saying it had a basis of probable cause, which doesn't require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bob Ticer, Loveland's outgoing police chief, spoke Monday about the training officers receive to recognize impaired driving, and said they are concerned about even tiny levels.

"The bottom line is, we are looking for people who are impaired to the slightest degree. And there are people who are impaired that don't have alcohol in their system, but it takes highly trained officers to identify that."

The department emphasized the seriousness of the safety risks of impaired driving. The Colorado Department of Transportation reported 691 people were killed in traffic accidents last year, and fatalities involving impaired drivers have increased 44% since 2019.

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