Lake County sheriff's sergeant wins new award named after late friend and mentor

Among those dedicated to keeping intoxicated drivers off Illinois' roads, Carol Stream police officer Dan Stafiej was a legend.

So, it was only fitting that when the Schaumburg-based Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists decided to establish a new award this year honoring the state's top drug recognition expert, they named it in honor of Stafiej, who died in February after a long illness.

And just as fitting, AAIM on Sunday gave the first edition of the award to Stafiej's longtime friend and protégé, Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Ari Briskman.

"To be given an award in his name is truly one of the most meaningful things I've ever received in my life," Briskman told us this week.

As a certified drug recognition expert, Briskman is a rarity in Illinois law enforcement circles - one of only about 100 statewide. He and his peers have completed a rigorous training program making them specialists in determining whether a driver is under the influence of something other than alcohol, identifying what that is, and backing up their conclusions in court.

For Briskman and many of his fellow DREs, Stafiej was their teacher and mentor.

"Every drug recognition expert in the state has been influenced by Dan Stafiej's teaching, either directly or indirectly," Briskman said.

For Briskman, the motivation to spend hours learning from Stafiej and others came from seeing too many serious crashes involving impaired drivers.

"I made it my goal to make a difference in these cases in any way that I could," he said.

That means, beyond serving as a DRE, Briskman teaches drug recognition to others, leads a countywide multijurisdictional crash investigation team and works as an adjunct instructor for the Homeland Security Training Institute at the College of DuPage.

"He's done amazing work," AAIM Executive Director Rita Kreslin told us. "He's dedicated, he's passionate about this, and he wants to make sure people are held accountable when necessary."

In demand

The work of DREs like Briskman has become increasingly important - and in demand - since 2020, when Illinois legalized recreational marijuana use.

Briskman said drivers and even some law enforcement officers aren't good at recognizing the signs of marijuana intoxication, which is different from alcohol.

"I often see people who think they're safe to drive, when they're not," he said. "We haven't done a good job educating the public on the dangers of driving while intoxicated by cannabis. We've done a great job with alcohol, but haven't done the same with cannabis."

One more thing

AAIM was founded in the early 1980s by Carol Brierly Golin, whose teenage daughter was killed by a drunken driver in Antioch in 1981, and Glenn Kali, a Lake Forest elementary school teacher whose brother died in a crash caused by an intoxicated driver.

Today, the organization offers victim services, courtroom monitoring, prevention and education program, and organizes victim impact panels, where those accused of driving drunk hear about the devastating consequences their actions could lead to.

Update on injured officer

The Kane County Sheriff's Office says Detective Brian Anderson continues to recover, but is facing more surgeries for injuries sustained when a heavy-duty pickup truck hit his squad SUV Tuesday. He had a second surgery Wednesday. "The head-on crash was nothing short of horrific, and he had to endure a 45-minute extrication from his squad while in a great deal of pain - but never expressed any discomfort. A true warrior," the office posted on Facebook. It said he sustained multiple crushed bones from the waist down.

The crash, which happened on Route 47 near Pingree Grove, remains under investigation. No charges have been announced.

Over the Rainbow Bridge

"Rest easy, girl. We'll take it from here." So said the Kane County Sheriff's Office, in an announcement Monday of the death of retired deputy dog Prada.

Prada and her handler, Sgt. Ryan Monaghan, were involved in hundreds of drug seizures and apprehensions of criminal suspects. But she recently developed a painful form of bone cancer, and was euthanized Monday.

Aurora addition

The Aurora Police Department has added a bloodhound to its police-dog team.

Super-sniffer Sadie is the first bloodhound for the department. She started work Monday after eight weeks of training.

Sadie is trained in one thing - to follow human odor. The department says she will primarily be tasked with finding missing people, but also can track criminal suspects. Her handler is Sgt. Grant Weil.

Sadie and Weil were trained by Nick Wolf of Canine Tactical Operations. Wolf is a Kane County Sheriff's Office sergeant, in charge of that agency's canine unit.

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Dan Stafiej
Sgt. Grant Weil has a new partner, Sadie. The bloodhound began work Monday. She is the first bloodhound on the department's police-dog team. Courtesy of the Aurora Police Department
Sgt. Grant Weil and his new partner, Sadie. The bloodhound began work Monday. She is the first bloodhound on the department's police-dog team. Courtesy of the Aurora Police Department
Kane County Deputy Sgt. Ryan Monaghan and his partner, Prada. The office is mourning the death of Prada, who was euthanized Monday because she was suffering from bone cancer. Courtesy of the Kane County Sheriff's Office
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