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State Patrol’s top cop in Southwest Colorado to retire

Highway safety is improving, but distracted driving threatens it, says Capt. Adrian Driscoll
Capt. Adrian Driscoll, who has led the Colorado State Patrol in Southwest Colorado for the past nine years, will retire at the end of June. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Capt. Adrian Driscoll, who has led the Colorado State Patrol in Southwest Colorado for the past nine years, will retire on June 30 – saying the time is right to spend more time with his family.

“It seems like families often get left out in a law enforcement career,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

Driscoll’s wife, Jamie, has been teaching fourth grade in Camdenton, Missouri, which allows her to help her elderly mother. But she is headed back for summer.

Also, back this summer will be the Driscolls’ eldest daughter, Kathryn, who has graduated from Rowan University in New Jersey and is busy applying to medical schools. She will be shadowing doctors at Mercy Regional Medical Center this summer.

The return of Driscoll’s wife and daughter, will also reunite them with Braeden, the Driscolls’ 21-year-old son, who will be a junior at Fort Lewis College next year.

This summer will mean the family is together for the first time in more than a year, and Driscoll, 52, wants to make the most of the time.

Driscoll said after reuniting with the immediate family this summer, retirement will give him the free time to help his parents in Denver, to travel and to refurbish a muscle car, a ’68 Firebird that’s been waiting for him in his garage.

“Mainly, I'm going to spend a lot more time with my family, with my parents in Denver and with my sister, who I followed into law enforcement, and this will give me an opportunity to do that,” he said.

Driscoll’s son got him into motorcycling, and he plans to take some two-wheel trips with Braeden this summer.

Driscoll, who grew up in Littleton, said he’s fallen in love with Southwest Colorado during his tenure in Durango, and he plans to remain for at least two more years, until Braeden graduates from FLC.

Durango Police Chief Bob Brammer said Driscoll has worked hard to partner with the Durango Police Department and other regional law enforcement agencies.

“He’s a fantastic guy,” Brammer said. “We're going to miss him, and we hope whoever replaces him in this region is as willing as he was to always partner with us in order to make our community safer.”

Driscoll had applied for the Durango police chief job at the same time as Brammer, and he said the situation “worked out the way it should have.” He credits Brammer with doing a great job.

The main purpose of the Colorado State Patrol is highway safety, and Driscoll believes that is an area that is improving in the region.

Driscoll said Troop 5A, which covers La Plata, Montezuma, Dolores, San Juan and Archuleta counties, as well as portions of Hinsdale and Mineral counties, is benefiting from greater data analysis about accidents, DUIs and animal collisions.

“The region used to be fairly small, but we’re seeing increased traffic, especially during the summer, and our No. 1 mission is that people arrive where they are going safely and they go home safely,” he said.

Data analysis will help troopers pay more attention to problematic areas of highways and roads.

“It means a sergeant, when he plans his week, can assign troopers based on data to where the problem areas are,” he said. “We’re getting increasingly successful with that. We’re increasingly refining the system, and now it’s providing us with real-time data.”

Driscoll is confident DUI numbers in Southwest Colorado are on the decline, but he said distracted drivers are a problem that has arisen during his tenure.

The digital-age problem has gotten so severe the department has received federal money allowing it to dedicate overtime hours to a single trooper during shifts. The money allows one trooper to be in the field solely seeking to nab distracted drivers.

“I think numbers (concerning distracted drivers) will get better over time,” he said. “The community is more aware of it. And that’s a good thing. We really want people to know: You don’t text and drive to get to the place where you’re going safely.”

Driscoll declined to comment about the impact of legalization of recreational marijuana on highway safety.

“No comment,” was his reply about pot legalization.

“We're very careful because it’s such a political item that I just steer clear of it entirely,” he said.

Colorado State Patrol Capt. Adrian Driscoll accepts a rose and ribbon in honor of a fallen trooper in May 2019 at the fourth annual Law Enforcement Memorial River Walk ceremony held at the amphitheater at the Durango Community Recreation Center. (Durango Herald file)

The heat law enforcement officers have taken in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the subsequent conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for second-degree murder has hurt recruitment to the Colorado State Patrol, Driscoll said.

Region 5A currently has 18 troopers. It normally is staffed with 21 troopers, but numbers vary, and Driscoll said the region has dropped to a low of 15 troopers and jumped to a high of 24 troopers at various times.

Senate Bill 20-217, which will require law enforcement officers, including those in the State Patrol, to wear body cameras by July 1, 2023, will be good for law enforcement, he said.

“Senate Bill 217 came through and made some changes, changes that I think are going to make us better,” he said. “We’re looking at body cams. They should be here in the next couple of years. I obviously won't see that. But I think it’s a step in the right direction for transparency and public confidence.”

Public confidence in law enforcement is essential for any agency to operate effectively, and it’s a point Driscoll emphasizes with troopers under him.

“I tell my troopers: Every traffic stop, that may be the first interaction that person has ever had with law enforcement. So make it a positive one.”

parmijo@durangoherald.com

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