For Hall County Sheriff’s Dep. John Thompson and Dep. Jeremy Cooksey, the job isn’t about numbers, it’s about lives. But Thompson and Cooksey, both members of the Sheriff’s Office Traffic Unit and Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Hall County/Gainesville HEAT Unit, do have a knack for getting good numbers when it comes to DUI arrests.
Their efforts were evident recently at the 15th Annual Golden Shield Honors at the Cobb Galleria Centre. The honors are collaboration between the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Georgia to honor law enforcement and others’ efforts to stop drunk driving.
Thompson received the “Officer DUI Hero” award for the most DUI arrests in the agency’s category at 190. No stranger to awards, Thompson won the same honor last year and was also declared “DUI Officer of the Year” at the annual Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety traffic network meeting last fall.
“I don’t do it for the awards. I don’t do it for the recognition. I do it because I want to save people’s lives,” he said following the Golden Shield Honors.
Thompson, who worked with the Atlanta Police Department before taking a position with the Sheriff’s Office, said people in his family have been impacted by drunk drivers, making the enforcement effort personal for him.
Growing up, Thompson had an uncle who was an alcoholic and was involved in multiple car accidents.
His wife’s brother’s military career was changed by a drunk driver.
A 17-year-old family friend was driving drunk, crossed the centerline, hit a woman’s vehicle head-on and killed her.
In addition to protecting innocent motorists, Thompson said his job is also about having a positive impact on the DUI offender’s life. He has had opportunities to talk with several offenders and urge them to get help. Thompson has also had offenders tell him they knew they were on a bad path, admit they had hit bottom with the arrest and come to the realization they need to change their life.
“It’s one of those things that is 100 percent preventable, Thompson said. “They can get in a cab. They can call Uber. There are so many options now.”
In addition to the award, Thompson received a “150 pin” reflecting the 190 arrests. Cooksey picked up a “50 pin” for his 75 DUI arrests during the year.