Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day Safely

This year St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday and the EPPD will have extra officers out on the road that day, looking for drivers who have had too much green beer and decided to drive.

St. Patrick’s Day can be a dangerous time due to the increased number of drunk drivers on the road. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, St. Patrick’s Day ranks second in all holidays for the number of DWIs per hour (4.6). Only Labor Day is higher at 4.9. From 2011-2016, 11 people died and 31 people were seriously injured on Minnesota roads during St. Patrick’s Day.

It’s easy to enjoy a festive and safe celebration without jeopardizing your life or the lives of others. Here are a few tips:

  • Plan ahead if you’ll be drinking and arrange a safe way home before the festivities begin.
  • Before drinking, designate a sober driver and give that person your keys.
  • If you’re impaired, call a taxi or ridesharing program, use public transportation, or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, promptly call 911. You could save someone’s life.
  • Remember, friends don’t let friends drive drunk. If you know someone who is about to drive or ride with someone who is impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

Car seats for those in need

Officer Ryan Kuffel at a recent child safety seat inspection

At the EPPD we know how important it is for children to be properly strapped into car seats. Child safety seats save lives and for kids who are both under 4 feet 9 inches tall and under age 8, it’s the law.

But car seats can be expensive. What happens when a family can’t afford one?

Luckily, the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety offers the Minnesota Child Passenger Safety Program which provides grants to cities in the form of new child safety seats that can be distributed to families who need them. Last week the EPPD learned that we are receiving six new car seats as a result of a grant request submitted by Officer Ryan Kuffel, one of the department’s two certified child safety seat inspectors.

The department will distribute the six new car seats to low-income Eden Prairie families based on criteria provided in the grant.

If you have any questions about this program or would like to schedule a car seat inspection, contact the EPPD at 952-949-6200.

Thank You Plungers!

Part of the EPPD Polar Plunge 2018 contingent

Last Saturday 595 people, including several EPPD staff members and their families, plunged into the icy waters of Riley Lake as part of the Special Olympics Polar Plunge.

The plungers solicited donations which go to Special Olympics Minnesota. More than $112,457 was raised, which brings the amount of money raised in Eden Prairie since 2011 to more than $1-million. With 21 plunges completed statewide this year and four more to go, 13,144 plungers have raised nearly $3-million.

Law enforcement plays a significant role in helping to raise both money and awareness for the Special Olympics. Police departments, including Eden Prairie, participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run and help out at the Special Olympics games throughout the year.

Thank you to everyone who plunged, pledged and volunteered at this year’s Eden Prairie Polar Plunge. And a special thank you to the Eden Prairie Fire and Parks and Recreation Departments for their work prepping the area and keeping the plungers safe.

Honoring a Fallen Friend

Greg Weber and Patrick Weatherford

In January 2016, EPPD Deputy Chief Greg Weber left Minnesota for Quantico, Virginia, for an intensive 10-weeks of training at the FBI National Academy (FBINA), along with 232 other law enforcement officers from around the world.

On the first day he was randomly assigned a roommate, Lt. Patrick Weatherford of the Newport, Arkansas, Police Department. They immediately hit it off after realizing they both liked to keep their room spotless (Lysol spray was Patrick’s favorite) and subscribed to the “early to bed, early to rise” adage. They also both had a sly sense of humor. On their first evening Greg overhead Patrick telling his wife on the phone, “Yep, he’s a Yankee alright, but I can understand him.”

Over the course of the next 10 weeks, Greg and Patrick became close, bonding over their coursework and sharing stories about their families back home. After graduation they continued to stay in touch via text and email. Greg would often receive encouraging and humorous messages from Patrick at the exact times it seemed he needed them most.

On June 12, 2017, Greg received a call from a fellow FBINA classmate, letting him know that Patrick had been killed in the line of duty while responding to a theft from a vehicle call. An 18-year-old man fleeing the scene shot and killed Patrick and was later arrested. At 41 years old, Patrick left behind a wife and two children.

Greg traveled to Arkansas for the funeral in June and had a chance to meet Patrick’s family, colleagues and friends. It was apparent to Greg that Patrick was not only a great police officer, but also a highly respected man in the community of Newport.

On Monday of this week Greg had an opportunity to honor Patrick at the FBINA’s Hall of Honor ceremony which recognizes members of recent graduating classes who were killed in the line of duty. In addition to Patrick, fellow classmate Chief Deputy Clinton Greenwood of the Harris County, Texas, Constables Office, who was shot and killed April 3, 2017, was also remembered.

At the Hall of Honor ceremony, Greg spoke in front of his former classmates, family members of the fallen officers and FBI leadership. He talked about how well-liked Patrick was, how committed he was to his family and how dedicated he was to protecting and serving his community. Patrick Weatherford was a great man and a loyal friend, and will be deeply missed.

Opioids in Eden Prairie

In the past five days, EPPD officers have responded to three opioid overdoses in Eden Prairie.

All three people received naloxone, a medication administered through the nose that reverses the effects of an overdose, and all three survived. There has been one additional overdose in Eden Prairie this year, bringing the 2018 total to four.

From 2016 to 2017, Eden Prairie experienced a 425-percent increase in the number of opioid overdoses.

In 2016, four people overdosed on opioids and two of them died. The heroin dealer linked to one of those deaths was charged with homicide and is in the midst of a trial. She has already been sentenced in two other heroin overdose deaths in the metro area.

In 2017, 21 people overdosed on opioids in Eden Prairie and two of them died. A man who supplied the heroin to one of the victims was charged with homicide. Eleven of the 19 overdose survivors received naloxone administered by first responders. All EPPD officers, Eden Prairie firefighters and paramedics who service Eden Prairie carry naloxone in their vehicles.

The EPPD is continually searching to find solutions to this epidemic. We are currently working on developing a Recovery Assistance Program (RAP), which would provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships for Eden Prairie victims of opioid addiction. The scholarships would help cover treatment-related expenses. The RAP would also provide follow-up to participants with the goal of deepening their relationships with officers through a mentorship program emphasizing encouragement and goalsetting. We are in the process of seeking funding for this program through private sources. No tax dollars will be used to fund the program.