Greenwood police earned praise from state safety officials for their work in keeping intoxicated drivers off the road.

The state Department of Public Safety’s Office of Highway Safety and Justice Programs hosts an annual DUI enforcement awards contest, where local law enforcement offices throughout the state are invited to submit a package showing the work they’ve done to fight DUI cases in their area.

“We’re not just looking for how many DUI arrests you make,” said Greg Griggs, SCDPS law enforcement support services supervisor. “The panel looks at four key areas: Education, engineering, enforcement and emergency services. When they’ve asked for help, I’ve told them I’d look most closely at education and enforcement.”

Griggs said a panel of judges looks through nominations from various agencies and judges their efforts. They choose winning agencies in divisions broken down by department size.

The Greenwood Police Department earned agency of the year in the 26-50 officers division, while police Sgt. Brandon White won officer of the year in the same division.

“We’re very proud of all of our officers,” Greenwood Police Chief T.J. Chaudoin said. “Part of our job is to make sure we keep our citizens safe, and this award is a sign of us doing that.”

He said White was credited with 16 DUI arrests in 2020, and he’s involved in alcohol education and substance abuse prevention programs. Arrests aren’t everything, and Chaudoin said the police start trying to prevent driving under the influence from an early age. They visit local schools to teach about the dangers of impaired driving and have teamed up with Lander University for awareness campaigns.

“The worst thing I can remember as a rookie was working my first DUI fatality,” Chaudoin said. “We have some spots here in Greenwood with crosses by the road — spots where people have passed away. These are incidents that affect people for the rest of their lives.”

Griggs said the awards program is to encourage law enforcement to engage with their communities and teach about safe driving. Anyone who plans to drink should think ahead and get a designated driver, or plan to have someone else drive rather than getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, he said.

Contact staff writer Damian Dominguez at 864-634-7548 or follow on Twitter @IJDDOMINGUEZ.