Putting a stop to impaired driving in Rifle

Rifle officer has a passion to keep drunk drivers off the roads

Officer Kelli Litzau talks with a driver after making a stop in the parking lot of the Kum & Go on the north side of Rifle last Saturday. The driver was cited for a moving violation.

Flashing red and blue lights cut through the night near Whiteriver Avenue and East Sixteenth Street as the clock ticks midnight early Sunday morning.

For Rifle Police Officer Kelli Litzau, it is the second suspected DUI of her overtime shift — a shift she is pulling thanks to a grant through the Colorado Department of Transportation’s ongoing High Visibility Enforcement campaign.

RPD is one of many local law enforcement agencies taking part in the campaigns to help remove impaired drivers from the roadways.

“Colorado Department of Transportation gets federal funding, and every year I apply for High Visibility Enforcement grant like several agencies throughout the state,” Rifle Police Public Information Officer Robin Steffen said.

The department is currently on a 10-day campaign as part of President’s Day, one of 16 High Visibility Enforcement campaigns during a 12-month cycle from July 1 through June 30.

Steffen applies for the grants around May every year, which she started doing when she came to the Rifle Police Department in 2014. 

Steffen said there is no guarantee they will get a grant and if they do, how much it will be. Each agency that receives a grant has to participate in a minimum of 10 campaigns.

The department was awarded $23,000 from CDOT for the 2019-2020 grant cycle, to use to pay overtime hours to officers who sign up to enforce the campaign.

“This is actually an incentive they give to get officers out looking for the DUIs, to get the drunk drivers off the streets,” Steffen said.

“The CDOT funding has allowed us to be proactive when in fact we wouldn’t have been able to get out there and do it. It enables not only us, but other law enforcement agencies to get out there and make traffic stops and reward the officers who are willing to do it.”

Like all law enforcement officers, Litzau is certified in Standard Field Sobriety Testing, but she is also a certified Drug Recognition Expert.

Officer Kelli Litzau checks her mobile data terminal as she sits in her patrol vehicle late Saturday night in downtown Rifle. Litzau, a Drug Recognition Expert, was working an overtime shift looking for impaired drivers as part of a DUI campaign. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)

A DRE is a law enforcement officer trained to identify people whose driving is impaired by drugs, other than, or in addition to alcohol, follows a 12-step procedure called a Drug Influence Evaluation to determine which category of drugs are causing the driver to be impaired. 

Through tests and observations, Litzau can judge a person’s behavior and physical movements to determine whether they are driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both.

“Every person is different, every person is going to respond differently to alcohol, cocaine, meth than the other,” Litzau said. “Your body can’t hide it.”

Officer Litzau works on paper work with fellow officer Shelby McNeal after making a arrest for suspicion of a DUI early Sunday morning in Rifle. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)

After finishing field testing on the suspected drunk driver early Sunday, Litzau arrested the individual on suspicion of driving under the influence and transported the individual back to the station for Intoxilyzer testing, processing and paperwork.

She ended up working until 4:30 a.m. Sunday doing paperwork.

“It’s an extra dedication to go out and seek out drunk drivers,” Litzau said. “I’m just very passionate about taking impaired drivers off the roadway.”

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