Trio of PA officers recognized for efforts in taking impaired drivers off the road

Const. Matt Brown Prince Albert Police Service canine unit (right) shakes hands with MADD Prince Albert vice-president Karen Anthony-Burns during a ceremony on Tuesday. Brown was one of three officers recognized for his efforts in taking impaired drivers off the road. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Three members of the Prince Albert Police Service were recognized for their efforts in taking impaired drivers off the road with a special ceremony on Tuesday.

Const. Dwight Leblue, Const. Robert Lindsay, and Const. Matt Brown all received the Van de Vorst Family Award for their efforts. The award was created in 2017 to honour Jordan and Chanda Van De Vorst and their two children, Kamryn, and Miguire Van De Vorst. All four were killed by an impaired driver in January 2016.

Lindsay said he’s proud to receive the award, and grateful for surviving family members who created the award in the first place.

“Their lives have changed forever, (and) they’re trying to do some good and recognize us as officers, so we’re honoured to receive that in their family’s memory,” Lindsay said.

Both Lindsay and Leblue are multiple time winners, while Brown, a Prince Albert Police Service canine unit officer, was honoured for the first time.

Lindsay and Leblue both received gold challenge coins for taking between 17 and 40 impaired drivers off the road, while Brown and police service dog Cal received recognition for arresting eight impaired drivers.

“It’s a lot of work you put in to get this, so I always feel like I’m in good company,” Leblue said. “Rob and myself, we have come up together and we’ve picked up a lot of impaired (drivers) together, now Matt has joined us. He worked hard…. He was proud he got to be up here with us … and we’re proud to have him.

“It’s excellent, and I’m proud to be here again. Hopefully I’ll be here next year and the year after that. Regardless, I’m going out there to do what I do.”

All three officers received their awards from MADD Prince Albert president Darren Deck and vice-president Karen Anthony-Burns, whose son was killed by an impaired driver in Prince Albert.

Anthony-Burns became emotional during the presentation, telling officers she was grateful for their efforts in taking impaired drivers off the road.

While all three officers were honoured to receive the award, there was also some frustration. Lindsay said initiatives like Operation Red Nose, Ding in the New Year, and MADD Canada’s Red Ribbon campaign have made people more aware of the dangers of impaired driving than ever before. However, he said some people refuse to change.

“People are getting the message, I think, a little bit, but you know what? There’s still those ones out there who don’t, or in a lot of cases, habitual ones, and some people just don’t think they’ll get caught.”

Lindsay said stats show a person who gets arrested for impaired driving will actually drive impaired an average of 80 times a year. He said that amounts to a staggering number of incidents where impaired drivers don’t get caught.

Leblue remembers one incident two years ago when he caught an impaired driver speeding at 170 km/hr near Duck Lake. He said the incident was scary, since he had to travel at such high speeds to catch the suspect. He also shudders to think what might have happened if a police officer wasn’t nearby.

“It’s bad enough the guy’s driving drunk, but he’s doing insane speeds, like dangerous,” he said. “It just makes a guy sick to think about it, that he’s sharing the road with other people—innocent people.”

The Van De Vorst Awards are handed out based on data from April 1 to March 31. Blue and Lindsay both won the award last year too, along with PAPS Const. Curtis Stasiw.