Howard County police will be recognized at a national conference this fall for having one of the best traffic safety programs in the country.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police awarded the Howard County Police Department first-place honors for best overall traffic safety program of departments its size, which included 27 police departments of 201 to 500 sworn officers.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement Challenge "recognizes and rewards the best overall traffic safety programs in the United States."
It was the third time that Howard County took first place in the competition, winning in 1998 and 2002, said Sgt. Frederick von Briesen, supervisor of the department's traffic division. The department has entered the competition for the past 10 years, von Briesen said.
"I think it's always good when you're judged by outside agencies and outside people and you find that programs are worthy of being recognized," von Briesen said.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police is a nonprofit organization of police executives with more than 20,000 members in more than 89 countries, according to the organization.
More than 500 law enforcement agencies, ranging from departments of fewer than 10 sworn officers to those with more than 2,500, applied for this year's competition. Winners were chosen by size and type of department, including local police, sheriffs offices and state police.
Programs from the Howard County Police Department that were considered for the award included seat-belt and child safety-seat programs, a zero-tolerance policy for county employees concerning seat-belt violations and a traffic safety campaign in which signs are placed at exits to all the county's schools reminding drivers to be safe.
The competition also considered the department's drunken-driving programs, such as driving-under-the influence checkpoints and saturation patrols. In addition, officers employ a practice in which people arrested for impaired driving who pass a breath test are examined by a recognition expert to determine their sobriety.
Law enforcement officers who take cars home are required to enforce motor vehicle laws - even when they're off duty, von Briesen said. In addition, a joint program between the county and the school board requires high school students who request school parking permits to take part in a driver safety program with their parents.
The Howard County Police Department will receive the award at the International Association of Chiefs of Police's annual conference in November in San Diego.
Said Clarence Bell, a spokesman for the Virginia-based organization: "We look for highly successful enforcement, education programs."