East Valley DUI Task Force
Maricopa County, Arizona

Super Saturation Patrols

This is a image that shows the location of Maricopa County, Arizona as it would appear on a map.

Distinguishing Features

The East Valley DUI Task Force conducts one of the largest and longest-running impaired-driving enforcement programs in the country. NHTSA's guide for conducting saturation patrols (DOT-HS-807-903), published in 1993, is based largely on the early experiences of the member agencies of the East Valley DUI Task Force. Since then, the task force has evolved into a year-round special enforcement program.


Maricopa County is the nation's fourth most populous county and the 14th largest in the continental United States in land area, encompassing more than 9,220 square miles and 23 diverse communities distributed throughout what is known as the Valley of the Sun. Phoenix is the largest city within the county (population 1.3 million), followed by Mesa (440,000), Glendale (219,000), Scottsdale (202,000), and Tempe (170,000). Approximately 60 percent of Arizona's 5.1 million residents live in Maricopa County. Only three other counties in the United States grew faster than Maricopa County during the last decade of the 20th century, and the population continues to soar, from 2,122,100 residents in 1990 to 3,524,175 in 2004, representing a 66 percent increase in just 14 years. During this period, Maricopa County evolved from a tourism and resource-based economy to a center for high-technology industries, including semiconductors, electronics, and aerospace compo­nents. As the seat of Arizona's State capital, Maricopa County is the center of the State's political activity. Also, more than 277,000 students are enrolled in local community colleges, Arizona State University, and the 11 private colleges and universities located within the county. It is likely that the population of Maricopa County will continue to increase as economists have predicted the Greater Phoenix Area to be the Nation's “second-largest job growth engine” during the next 20 years.

Image of cactus and sunset. Aerial view of the city. Downtown view of the city.

Background / Planning Process

The saturation patrols conducted by the East Valley DUI Task Force require an enormous organizational effort, which is guided by the detailed procedures that have been established during two decades of sustained operation. Planning for each enforcement event begins months in advance and is accomplished with military precision, despite the complexities associated with coordinating the involvement of a consortium of more than a dozen law enforcement agencies, the courts, and other government entities. The planning process begins with an officer of the lead agency sending letters announcing the operation to the DUI coordinators of all member agencies of the task force. Specific issues that must be addressed during the process include the following:

Patrol area
Command center location
Personnel rosters
Security badges
Pursuit policies
Command/processing vans
Vans for transporting violators
Radios, chargers, and frequencies
Cell phones
Gun locker
Dispatch coordinator
Court coordinator (for each jurisdiction)
Court Information
Drug recognition experts
SFST area

Fingerprint equipment
Check-In desk and procedures
Tables and chairs
Volunteers (e.g., MADD)
Refreshments and sponsors
Staging area for taxicabs
Media relations
Press conferences
News releases
Publicity materials
Exceptional Incident procedures
Pre-deployment briefing
Certificates and awards
Fundraiser/annual picnic

Special Enforcement Methods

Mesa police department truck.

The principal component of the East Valley DUI Task Force program is the conduct of largescale, highly visible saturation patrols that focus on specific geographic areas within the eastern portion of Maricopa County. A multiagency command post is established in a large, centrally located parking lot. Several special vehicles, converted motor homes, and large vans owned by member agencies are parked conspicuously to serve as bases of operation and processing facilities. A fax machine is located in one of the command vans and a judge remains on call during the operation to issue and transmit warrants authorizing forced drawing of blood if a violator refuses to provide a breath sample. A heavy steel chair, built by officers, also is available to restrain violators, if necessary. The chair is a clever aid to efficiency during highvolume operations; usually one glance at the scarcely used device tames the most unruly or abusive drunk, permitting the continuous processing of DUI offenders to proceed unperturbed. Many of the officers are licensed phlebotomists, which allows them to draw blood samples immediately and without having to transport violators to hospitals and/or jails. It is amusing, at first, to observe an officer retrieve his kit from a motorcycle saddlebag and don his lab coat to prepare for drawing blood, but it is yet another example of efficiency at work; the practice costs less than other methods, saves officers' time, and most important, allows officers to return to patrol more quickly.

Diagram of a typical East Valley DUI Task Force Command Post

Diagram of a typical East Valley DUI Task Force Command Post

Frequency of Operations / Duration of Program

The East Valley DUI Task Force saturation patrol program began in 1986 as a holiday period DUI countermeasure. Within a few years, the original December cam­paigns were expanded to include Thanksgiving, then additional holidays and, eventually, other high-risk occasions throughout the year. The East Valley DUI Task Force gradually evolved into the current, year-round impaired-driving enforcement program. Now, approximately 30 large-scale saturation patrols are conducted each year, primarily during the following holiday periods and special occasions, but also between the usual holidays and events to foster the perception among drinking drivers that saturation patrols represent a continuous impediment to their dangerous behavior.

St. Patrick's Day (four nights)
Labor Day Weekend

Graduation Nights

Cinco de Mayo

Prom Nights

Memorial Day Weekend
Thanksgiving Weekend

Super Bowl Sunday

4th of July Weekend
Holiday Period (14 nights in December)



The original five agencies that formed the East Valley DUI Task Force deployed a total of 20 to 25 officers for the initial operations, beginning in 1986. The numbers of participating agencies and officers doubled by 1990 and have continued to increase. Now, as many as 150 officers from more than a dozen agencies participate in East Valley DUI Task Force saturation patrols, making them among the largest, countywide, multiagency deployments in the Nation. The East Valley DUI Task Force has emerged as an important element in the law enforcement culture of the area; the task force binds the officers of the member agencies together in a tradition of pride and professionalism concerning DUI enforcement.

Task force special operations campers.

The Task Force's special operations usually are conducted from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.,
but occasionally begin an hour earlier and continue until 4 a.m. Patrol areas vary
in size, for example, from a 35-square-mile section of Phoenix to a 60-square-mile area that encompasses portions of the cities of Mesa and Scottsdale and unincorporated areas of Maricopa County, depending on the number of officers available for the special duty.

The large numbers of officers deployed during one of these operations results in the patrol areas usually becoming saturated to the extent that several officers pass by and/or offer assistance within the first few minutes of each enforcement stop. Camaraderie and friendly competition among the member agencies contribute to the large numbers of DUI arrests that are made during every saturation patrol conducted by the East Valley DUI Task Force. Officers from the following agencies participated in the deployments that were conducted during a recent special enforcement operation.

Arizona Department of Public Safety

Maricopa County Sheriff's Department

Arizona State University Police

Mesa Police Department

Chandler Police Department

Paradise Valley Police Department

Fountain Hills Marshals Department
Phoenix Police Department
Gila River Indian Police Department
Scottsdale Police Department
Gilbert Police Department

Tempe Police Department

Maricopa County Parks Police Department
Salt River Pima-Maricopa Reservation PD


Image of people standing outside around police campers.
Officers, volunteers, and observers gather for a
pre-deployment briefing

Even the Task Force's relatively small deployments of 70 to 90 officers generate considerable television and newspaper coverage of the event. (Note: A 70-officer deplo­ment would be considered a major enforcement effort anywhere else in the United States, but it is small by local standards.) Dozens of civilian volunteers participate in the special operations by providing refreshments to the officers when they make periodic visits to their base of operations during all East Valley DUI Task Force enforcement events. Community and judicial support have helped sustain task force activities for nearly two decades. The large numbers of arrests resulting, at least in part, from task force operations, motivated local prosecutors to develop a PowerPoint template that greatly reduces the preparation time for court cases. The prosecutor's office reports that no cases have been lost in which the presentation tool has been used; it is a further example of innovation stimulated by the requirement to render high volume operations more efficient.

Public Awareness / Program Visibility

The press reports comments from the police in front of the campers.

The large, brightly-illuminated command center, several command vans, dozens of police motorcycles, and many other police and emergency vehicles in the area increase public awareness of the saturation patrols to all motorists in the vicinity. The special operations are so conspicuous that they attract considerable public atten­tion and always receive cover­age in local newspapers and on televi­sion and radio stations. The Task Force also has obtained the participa­tion of several taxi companies that provide free transportation from bars during saturation patrols; the service is announced on radio and TV stations during the days prior to the special operations.

The Task Force's publicity and education campaigns include press conferences, media interviews, public service announcements, and distribution of printed materials by the participating agencies and the Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety. Press conferences are conducted throughout the year to announce Task Force activities and every saturation patrol is preceded by press releases and invitations to news organizations to observe the special operations, and followed by press releases with results of the enforcement efforts. The Task Force enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with local reporters, because Task Force saturation patrols never fail to produce dramatic results (e.g., a record of 145 DUI arrests during the first of a series of saturation patrols in November 2003). A dedicated press line has been established for the officer in charge to leave voice messages with statistics and exceptional incidents for news reporters during task force operations. The service is updated every night immediately following the end of operations to provide 24-hour access to current information. Also, the Task Force conducts DUI Awareness Days at police departments and area shopping malls during which DUI processing vehicles are dis­played and educational booths and interactive devices are provided to inform the public of the risks of impaired driving and to publicize the special operations.

DUI Task Force Nets 328 Arrests

Image of the police department.

The East Valley DUI Task Force kicked off its annual holiday enforcement Friday, making 328 DUI arrests by Sunday morning, said Michael Hegarty, deputy director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. Thirty-five of those arrested had prior convictions for driving under the influence, Hegarty said. There were 24 underage DUI arrests. "There are more accidents involving DUIs during the holidays," said Mesa police Sgt. Mike Bellows. "People have the opportunity to get together to celebrate family and to drink a lot more than other weekends." Friday and Saturday night's task force had 167 officers participating from Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Mesa, and Gilbert police departments, along with Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Arizona State University Police Departments, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and Arizona's Department of Public Safety and Department of Liquor and License Control. Officers made 1,376 traffic stops. Of the 328 DUI arrests, 121 were for extreme DUI, Hegarty said. The legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08. Extreme DUI is 0.15 or higher.

First-time misdemeanor DUI offenders can expect to spend at least one day in jail and pay a fine of about $750. A person convicted of extreme DUI will spend a minimum of 10 days in jail. "And for some, if you lose your license, you lose your job," Bellows said. "If a family member is killed by a drunk driver, it will taint the holiday season pretty much for the rest of your life."

By Kristina Davis and Hayley Ringle

East Valley Tribune


Most officer participation is an overtime assignment, funded by grants from the Arizona Governor's Office of Traffic Safety. Member agencies also redirect personnel from normal duties to support the program. Members of the East Valley DUI Task Force also solicit donations from businesses and industry and hold fundraising events.

Lessons Learned

The principal programmatic lessons identified by the organizers of the East Valley DUI Task Force are presented in three categories. The first concerns some of the obstacles that were encountered and the actions taken in response, followed by a discussion of the features that are believed to contribute to the success of the program. Specific sug­gestions from the organizers are presented third.


Command and control issues.
Command and control can be a delicate issue with multi-agency operations. The organizers of the East Valley DUI Task Force addressed this issue by combining the normal chain of command with mission-specific leadership. That is, each participating law enforcement agency appoints a single agency coordinator to the task force, usually a ranking officer. The agency coordinator reports to the task force coordinator, a position that is rotated to a different agency each year. The task force coordinator is responsible for planning and implementing all special operations, which requires considerable communications and organizational skills. Problems or concerns that emerge are resolved among the task force and agency coordinators. Individual officers report to their agency coordinators. Having the support of their command staff is essential for officers to be full participants in task force operations.

Inter-agency communications.
Communication among officers from different agencies can be a problem because of differences in the radio equipment and frequencies used. For this reason, the task force and agency coordinators must establish an arrangement with the effected dispatchers prior to a special operation. If possible, a radio channel should be dedicated exclusively to task force use during the operation. The East Valley DUI Task Force also issues radios donated by the manufacturer for this purpose to ensure that all officers have communications capability.

Jurisdiction issues.
Arizona enjoys statewide jurisdiction for law enforcement officers. However, jurisdictional issues for law enforcement personnel must be resolved prior to conducting multi-agency operations.

Program Strengths

The participating officers' commitment to impaired driving enforcement is the factor that contributes most to the success of the East Valley DUI Task Force. Long hours of patrol can be difficult, especially during holiday periods when others are home with their families. However, the officers of the East Valley DUI Task Force are painfully aware of the consequences of alcohol-impaired driving and are sincerely committed to removing this source of crash risk from the streets of the East Valley. The knowledge that their enforcement effort saves lives fuels their commitment to improving traffic safety. The relationships that develop among the officers of the many participating agencies motivate one another and contribute to a shared understanding of the mission. That shared understanding fosters camaraderie and cooperation among the officers of the various agencies. Also, civilian volunteers and representatives of community organizations motivate and encourage the officers. The volunteers' participation in task force events demonstrates that impaired driving is not only a law enforcement problem, but also a com­munity problem.

Suggestions From the Program Organizers

Plan ahead.
Planning is critical for a successful special operation. Planning begins as early as August for the series of saturation patrols conducted by the East Valley DUI Task Force during a 14-day period in December. A weekend operation may only require coordination one month in advance. Several months of meetings and planning usually are necessary for each operation added to the task force's calendar of events.

Communicating with affected court jurisdictions during the planning phase allows court managers to prepare for the case load and facilitate the proper flow of written reports. Generally, the agency coordinators collect the reports from their officers during the special operation, make copies, then send the copies to the appropriate court(s). The coordinators retain the original reports for the authoring agency. The reports must be completed and distributed promptly.

Involving court personnel and prosecutors in the planning phases relieves their apprehension about the special operations and benefits the program by providing access to important information (e.g., potential schedule conflicts, legal issues) and obtaining their support.

Inviting prosecutors to special enforcement operations can benefit relations between law enforcement agencies and the courts, and even increase DUI prosecution rates. Observing a saturation patrol helps prosecutors develop an understanding of the magnitude of the impaired driving problem, and like most observers, they are impressed by the officers' professionalism and commitment to DUI enforcement. The experience encourages prosecutors to hold offenders accountable. Prosecutors have become an essential component of the East Valley DUI Task Force.

Prepare maps and other materials.
Prepare maps of the special operations area that depict court jurisdictions and court locations, and list the hearing dates for each court. The maps will assist officers who are unfamiliar with the area in citing offenders into the proper court.

Involve the news media.
Newspapers, television, and radio can reach far more people than the members of the task force by themselves. Fostering good relations and being responsive to reporters' deadlines will help educate the public about the dangers of impaired driving and contribute to awareness of the special enforcement program.

Recognize and reward.
Agency coordinators should recognize the efforts of their participating officers. A simple certificate of appreciation for each participant and, perhaps, a commendation for top performers will go a long way toward encouraging members to return for the next special operation.

Don't waste time reinventing the wheel.
Multi-agency task force operations are conducted throughout the country. Contact other agencies, request information about their procedures, and incorporate what appears to be the most relevant advice in the planning process. Organizing and coordinating the activities of a multi-agency task force can seem overwhelming, but the contribution to a community can be well worth the effort.

Evidence of Program Effects

Between 70 and 200 DUI arrests are made during each saturation patrol conducted by the East Valley DUI Task Force; participating officers made a total of 1,866 DUI arrests during the 2002 holiday deployments and 2,135 arrests during the same period in 2003. Many arrests continue to be made during each saturation patrol, despite the extensive publicity, news coverage, and frequency of these largescale, special enforcement operations. The continuing large numbers of arrests may be attributable to the continuous population growth of the area.

The following table shows the numbers of alcohol-related fatal crashes, total crashes, and the proportions of all crashes that were alcohol-related in the United States, Maricopa County, and in all of Arizona less the Maricopa County values. (Note: The East Valley DUI Task Force conducts its special operations in the more densely-populated eastern third of the county.) The table shows that the proportion of alcohol-related fatal crashes in all of Maricopa County declined by 14 percent in 2002, compared to the previous year, while the proportion declined by only 2 percent in all other regions of Arizona, and increased by 3 percent, nationwide. The changes are illustrated in the accompanying figure.

Fatal Crashes in the U.S.A., Maricopa County, and Other Areas of Arizona
in the Years 2001 and 2002








Maricopa County








Arizona (minus Maricopa)
















Data Sources: Arizona Department of Transportation; NCSA 2002 Annual Assessment

Chart of the percent change in fatal alcohol-related crashes in Maricopa county, Arizona, and the USA 2001-2002.

Note: Lieutenant Bill Peters of the Mesa Police Department and Sergeant Chris Andreacola of the Tucson Police Department have developed a 50-slide PowerPoint presentation that describes in detail the steps necessary to organize a multi-agency task force for the purpose of conducting frequent, high-visibility, impaired-driving enforcement operations.


Lieutenant Bill Peters
Mesa Police Department
130 North Robson Street
Mesa, AZ 85201-6697