National Police Week: Jones takes pride in keeping impaired drivers off the roads

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Jed Jones

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


National Police Week has been held each year around mid-May since 1962, when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. The period serves not only as a time to honor those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but to recognize all members of law enforcement who continue to serve and protect their communities.


“In some ways, I think the job found me,” said Jed Jones.


The McGregor area native, who’s now a deputy sheriff with the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, admitted he didn’t become interested in law enforcement until he was in college, when a friend encouraged him to apply to the Mount Vernon Police Department as a reserve officer.


“I was going to school at Kirkwood and kind of leaning toward criminal justice,” he recalled. “I applied and was hired, and it really answered my question if it was something I wanted to do full time. It fit my personality.”


After earning his associate’s degree, Jones transferred to Mount Mercy College, graduating in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology. That fall, he took a job at the Waukon Police Department, and two years later, joined the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office.


Jones said he was attracted to the sheriff’s office because of the opportunity to handle a variety of situations.


“Patrol is kind of the backbone of law enforcement, and handles the bulk of what law enforcement is. We’re a jack of all trades,” he described. “If there’s a call, you’re going to handle it. And you can run traffic stops. That can be speeding citations or making stops to get into bigger situations, whether it be OWI investigations or drug investigations. You also get to help a lot of people and a lot of different officers. It can be taxing, but it’s what I enjoy.”


In his time with the sheriff’s office, Jones has worked primarily at night, when a heavy amount of calls are related to drugs and alcohol. As a result, he’s become passionate about dealing with people who are impaired by drugs and alcohol. 


“In Iowa, the number one crime that ends up in death is operating while intoxicated, whether alcohol or drug related. What made me focus on getting impaired drivers off the road is that it’s one of the few crimes you actually have the capability of stopping before it happens,” Jones explained. “Every time you take an impaired driver off the road, there’s the potential they could have been involved in something that hurt or killed somebody. Not just them, but down the road too. There’s a ripple effect. That’s why I dove into.”


Jones has even gotten extra training to detect impaired drivers. He’s a standardized field sobriety instructor as well as a drug recognition expert (DRE). DREs are extensively trained to recognize and identify impairment from seven different drug categories using a 12-step process in addition to the standardized field sobriety tests.


“They teach you how to detect impaired drivers who are in different drug categories, and I come in and make a determination whether or not I believe they were, and if they were impaired, what drug or drug category they were impaired by,” said Jones. “I look at clinical signs of impairment, like blood pressure, pulse, their pupil size and muscle tone. I look for signs of ingestion, like a needle, through their nose or mouth.”


“Systematic and standardized are the two words they pound into your head so it’s the same every time and as accurate as possible,” he added.


Although alcohol remains a major source of impairment, Jones said the additional DRE training is helpful because drug related impairment is on the climb.


“There are way more drug-related crashes and personal injuries and fatalities than there ever has been,” he said. “The number of drug impaired OWIs we’ve had the last four or five years is off the charts. Compared to the OWI drug arrests we’ve had in the last 30 years, we’ve probably done that in a year or two.”


Jones said every drug a person can think of has been, or is currently, in Clayton County. Methamphetamine and marijuana are most often detected, though. Impairment by prescribed drugs is also on the rise.


“We deal with a lot of prescribed drug use, and that’s something that tends to go under the radar,” he noted. “It could be prescribed to you or not prescribed to you, but if you’re abusing it and impaired, that’s an issue. Unfortunately, it’s a difficult one to enforce because there are a lot of defenses.”


At last year’s Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau Conference, for the second time in his career, Jones received the Regional DRE Award for most DRE evaluations completed in northeast Iowa. He conducted 12 evaluations on impaired drivers over a one-year span, to help keep Clayton County roads safe.


Jones said he enjoys educating other officers so they ultimately have the same detection abilities—and are more comfortable using them.


“What I try to explain to people is that impairment comes in all shapes and sizes. When people think of a drunk driver, they think of an individual slurring their speech, stumbling around, reeks of alcohol—a cookie cutter example,” he said. “But just because that person might be the stereotypical drunk driver doesn’t mean there aren’t other levels of impairment that are just as dangerous. That’s why we run into the problem with people who say, ‘I feel fine. I’m just a little buzzed.’ Impairment is impairment. They may not seem drunk, but they are. Some people can just handle it better.”


It’s the same with drugs, Jones added.


“Everyone thinks of someone smoking marijuana or using meth or heroin. Everyone has a stereotypical view. But we have people who are built differently, or maybe they’re not as high, or maybe they’re coming off the drug so they’re a little more lethargic,” he said. “There are a lot of factors you have to look at but, ultimately, you use the gauge ‘Is something not right here?’ This person seems sluggish, this person is evasive and not answering my questions, this person just blew through a stop sign. It doesn’t mean you’re impaired, but it’s a reason to investigate. Let the field sobriety tell you if you’re right or wrong. It’s better to be cautious.”


Working in a county as large as Clayton—and with its topography—can sometimes be difficult, said Jones. Calls can also be sporadic.


“Some nights you’re driving from one side of the county to the other, and then you could go a week or two where you don’t have a lot of calls. The weekends are generally busier, but people are very unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen,” he stated. “If you’re in this field long enough, you’re going to see it all.”


Although each officer handles situations differently, Jones said he likes to “slow things down,” and tries not to get worked up.


“Sometimes you have time to think about what you’re going to do, and you can mentally prepare,” he shared. “Sometimes you have to go zero to 100.”


Afterward, Jones relies on his strong family foundation, relationships with fellow officers and religious guidance to put everything into perspective.


“Everyone in law enforcement has different personalities. Some people are comfortable in uncomfortable situations. That fits me,” he said. “I know I’ve done a lot of good things in this job, and I take pride in knowing I’ve treated people fairly.”

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