CHP Officer Michael Ball led all Sonoma County police officers in DUI arrests
last year. Photo by the CHP

CHP Officer Michael Ball is a DUI magnet.

Last year, he arrested 69 DUI suspects — the most of any police officer in Sonoma County.

Santa Rosa Police Officer Hiroshi Yaguchi was No. 2 with 68. Ball, Yaguchi and 34 other Sonoma County police officers were honored last month by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for leading the county in DUI arrests, with a total of 1,411.

Ball, who’s been with the CHP for about three and a half years with two of those locally, attributes his high number of arrests partly to working overnight shifts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays — a time when people are out and many are drinking.

While the 29-year-old officer finds many DUI suspects by looking for drivers who are tailgating, weaving and such, he said he discovers about as many DUIs during minor traffic stops, such as for a burned-out tail light, when he smells alcohol in the car or on the driver’s breath. As a result, he said he approaches each stop as a possible DUI encounter.

In his job, he said, he sees the tragic results of drinking and driving, with crashes resulting in deaths and injuries.

“The part of the job I enjoy is taking those drivers off the road before they can hurt someone,” he said.

Ball spends the first part of his 12-hour shifts, starting at 6 p.m., by himself but then late at night teams up with his partner, Officer Nick Herman, who was honored by MADD for 38 DUI arrests. (For those wondering, Ball and other CHP officers fill out their work weeks by working a fourth day every other week.)

Ball’s ability to find and arrest DUI suspects is going strong. So far this year, he estimated, he’s arrested about 30. He also was honored last year by MADD for his arrests and in 2009 for his arrests while assigned to Los Angeles County.

It’s obvious Ball takes drinking and driving extremely seriously. He said that when he goes out with friends, they always pick one to be the designated driver.

His advice for those going out drinking: “Be smart and be responsible. Don’t put people’s lives in danger.”

UPDATE: Here’s a CHP press release issued today reporting Ball’s latest DUI arrest:

“On Saturday, at approximately 1:45 a.m, CHP Officer Michael Ball observed a Lincoln sedan weaving on northbound 101 at Bicentennial Way and made an enforcement stop. He contacted the driver, who was identified as Tatianna Gerardo, 24, of Santa Rosa. The officer noted signs of intoxication and, following a DUI evaluation, placed Gerardo under arrest. A records check revealed that Gerardo was convicted for a DUI in March of this year, and is on probation. She was booked on charges of DUI, driving while suspended and violation of probation.”

Here the list of local officers honored by MADD for their DUI arrests in 2010:

–CHP Officer Michael Ball, 69
–CHP Officer Brian Wood, 65
–CHP Officer Jeremy Holeman, 59
–CHP Officer Patrick Naves, 59
–CHP Officer Juan Inguanzo, 53
–CHP Officer Cyril Ruffin, 53
–CHP Officer Nened Gorenec, 51
–CHP Officer Marcus Hawkins, 50
–CHP Officer Blair Hardcastle, 47
–CHP Officer Robert Oates, 44
–CHP Officer Thomas Herve, 42
–CHP Officer David Gordon, 41
–CHP Officer Christopher Manley, 41
–CHP Officer Jonathan Todd, 41
–CHP Officer Crandon Kopriva, 40
–CHP Officer Nicolas Herman, 38
–CHP Officer Timothy Randall, 38
–CHP Officer Leopoldo Martines, 37
–CHP Officer Tim Snyder, 32
–CHP Officer Arthur Hernandez, 29
–CHP Officer Todd Heron, 29
–CHP Officer Juan Leon, 26
–Cloverdale Officer Rachel Cardin, 25
–Cotati Officer Christopher Kaupe, 31
–Cotati Officer Jason Yarnall, 12
–Petaluma Officer Ryan Debaeke, 33
–Petaluma Officer Ron Klein, 29
–Rohnert Park Officer Charles Larson, 25
–Rohnert Park Officer Keith Astley, 13
–Santa Rosa Officer Hiroshi Yaguchi, 68
–Santa Rosa Officer Matthew Sanchez, 60
–Santa Rosa Officer Daniel Hackett, 29
–Sebastopol Officer David Harston, 47
–Sebastopol Officer Nicolas Belliveau, 28
–Sebastopol Officer David Ginn, 27