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Column: When it comes to DUI arrests, he’s our Most Valuable Policeman


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Matt Simmons
Matt Simmons


The Major League Baseball season will end in a little more than three weeks, which means we’ll not only know which teams qualified for the playoffs, but which players were league leaders in categories such as home runs, earned-run average and batting average.

Leading either the National or American League in a category is a way for a player to carve a legacy for himself. Win five batting titles, and you’re forever introduced as five-time batting champion Joe Baseball.

Such recognition unfortunately seems limited to sports, entertainment or major prizes — two-time Oscar winner Joe Silverscreen and Nobel Peace Prize winner Sally Humanitarian. Maybe we should consider expanding the use of monikers to more everyday people — teachers, social workers and truck drivers, for example — because some truly deserve the recognition.

For example, four-time Versailles District DUI arrest leader Matt Simmons.

 

A 31-year-old Columbus resident, Simmons has been a member of the Indiana State Police for seven years and patrols Bartholomew County.

On Aug. 27, the trooper was among other state police employees honored in Indianapolis for their accomplishments in 2013. Simmons was recognized for leading the Versailles District with 72 driving-under-the-influence arrests.

In fact, he has led his district in DUI arrests five consecutive years — Seymour in 2009 and Versailles (which merged with the Seymour District) since 2010. Simmons has more than 500 DUI arrests in his career.

Why is this important? Because he’s played great defense in taking drivers under the influence of alcohol and drugs off the road, helping prevent future fatalities and injuries. If Simmons played a position on a football team, surely it would be as the safety.

Part of his motivation for catching impaired drivers stems from his role as an accident reconstructionist. When a wreck involves a serious injury or death, he’s called in to determine what happened.

“I’ve seen way too many innocent people killed or seriously injured as a result of drinking and driving. Usually in a bad crash the person doing drugs is not the one killed; it’s the passenger or someone in the other car — an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Simmons said.

Stopping people who are under the influence before a crash that could hurt or kill someone else is a benefit, he said.

“Nobody wants to go to jail, but it’s better than going to the morgue,” Simmons said.

He said he’s not looking to catch drivers under the influence more than any other type of motorist breaking the rules of the road but thinks the training he received and picking prime spots for patrolling have contributed to his team-leading DUI arrest totals.

“I tend to focus my patrol efforts in areas where drunk drivers are more likely to be. At 2 a.m. I’m not usually going to be out in the county. I’m closer to town, where drivers will be leaving bars and restaurants,” he said.

Fortunately, people seem to be getting the message, evident by his declining DUI arrest numbers since 2010, he said. More people are using city taxi services or using designated drivers to get home safely, he added.

The honor Simmons received didn’t include a raise or a bonus, and he didn’t enter law enforcement to gain recognition, he said. But the recognition feels nice.

“It lets me know the department places some value on the DUI enforcement I do and is something the department takes seriously,” he said.

Originally, Simmons was studying to become a computer engineer and working full time for a firm in that industry. But he said he felt called to do something that had a greater purpose and made a difference in the community. That led to a change in major to criminal justice, a stint as a reserve police officer in Edinburgh, acceptance into the state’s law enforcement academy and a job as a state trooper.

The job seems to have been a perfect fit. In 2010, he was named Versailles District Trooper of the Year. That’s like earning the Most Valuable Player award for his team. Most importantly, Simmons plays for the public’s team, starring as a great defender who is doing his best to prevent unfortunate losses.

He doesn’t have a flashy job that garners headlines, but he has an important one he does well. In my book he’s MVP Matt Simmons — that’s Most Valuable Policeman.

Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5639 or johannesen@therepublic.com.

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