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State trooper Adam Flynn knows when to hold 'em

WORTHINGTON -- Bearing the moniker of the first man to succumb to sin, Adam Flynn would be the last person to proclaim himself a saint; still, he's made a name for himself as a top crusader against crime on Minnesota's highways.

Flynn, a Worthington native and 1995 graduate of Worthington High School, recently was recognized by the Minnesota State Patrol as the organization's leader in DWI arrests -- for the fourth year in a row.

In both 2006 and 2007, Flynn presided over 207 such arrests in his job as a state trooper in the East Metro District, which encompasses the cities of Bloomington, Eagan, Mendota Heights, Apple Valley, Lakeville and Burnsville.

This achievement is more notable when considering Flynn is just completing his fifth year as a state trooper -- and that other troopers' DWI arrest records typically range from 100 to 150 annually.

"It takes a lot of face-to-face contact with motorists," Flynn explained, "and if no alcohol or other serious violation is involved, concluding each stop relatively quickly."

It also makes a difference that Flynn is, by his choice, on the "Dog Watch" shift, from 9:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.

"I enjoy working at night and the type of activity that comes with working then," said Flynn. "I don't have the rush hours to deal with, even though I still get to handle crashes and people's vehicles breaking down."

As he cruises the broad roadways of the southeastern Twin Cities area in the day's darkest hours, Flynn is ever alert to help motorists in need -- or halt those he suspects of less-than-law abiding behavior.

"With DWIs, weaving and speed variation are the two biggest things I'm looking for," revealed Flynn.

Flynn's expertise has led him to make an interesting observation.

"Not every driver who is weaving is drunk," he said. "A lot of times, especially with younger people, you come to find out the erratic driving is because of using a cell phone or text messaging while they're operating a vehicle."

As with drunk drivers, those cell phone-chatting, text-messaging drivers believe they are able to divide their attention sufficiently, but in truth, they cannot.

"They send some of the same signals drunk drivers do," Flynn confirmed. "The weaving, inappropriate lane usage, lack of lane change signaling, speed well above or below the limit -- all can indicate an impaired driver, and my superiors would agree that our primary function at night is to remove impaired drivers.

"I think it's about one out of every 10 cars on the road after midnight that is operated by a driver who has consumed alcohol."

It isn't surprising Flynn chose a career in law enforcement; his father, Jeffrey Flynn, is a district court judge for Minnesota's Fifth Judicial District, while his uncle, Kevin Flynn, is a detective with the Worthington Police Department. In addition, his brother, Jesse Flynn, is a recently minted lawyer now practicing in Worthington with Ahlquist & Wiltrout, LLP.

"I remember riding around with Kevin when he first started with the police department, and I enjoyed seeing what he did," Flynn recalled. "Then I rode with Gary Nordseth and some other state troopers to see what that entailed, and when I went to college, I had hopes of joining the state patrol someday."

In 1998, Flynn earned a bachelor's degree in law enforcement at Mankato State University, followed by an master's degree in public administration there in 1999. He started work as a patrol officer with the Worthington Police Department in March 1999, a position he held until January 2003, when he attended the State Patrol Academy at Camp Ripley.

"It's 16 weeks long, and my class started out with 22 applicants and graduated 17," Flynn commented.

Immediately thereafter, Flynn began his current assignment in the State Patrol's East Metro District, and it's clear he has found his work rewarding.

"I truly love what I do," Flynn affirmed. "I enjoy working with all the different kinds of people I encounter, I like dealing with the general public, and I'm not confined to an office. Ultimately, my work is about helping people, and that validates my job."

Given his experience with drunk drivers, Flynn has plenty of advice to share.

"Sometimes when I'm arresting someone, they'll say, 'You've ruined my life,' but I politely remind them they made the choice to drive after drinking -- no one forced them to," Flynn said. "It's a personal choice they made, and now they are going to suffer the consequences."

Those consequences -- not even considering damage to reputation -- can be significant. A first-time DWI offense is a misdemeanor, with a maximum fine of $1,000 or 90 days in jail and revocation of one's driver's license for 90 days. When a person has been arrested three times, his/her vehicle may be forfeited and driver's license revoked for a longer period of time. Four or more DWIs within a 10-year period is a felony in Minnesota, with driving privileges revoked and vehicle forfeited.

"And that doesn't even take into account increased insurance fees, the cost of license reinstatement, the services of an attorney, possible temporary or permanent loss of employment (for bus, truck or delivery drivers, or on-the-road salespeople), and towing and storage of a vehicle," Flynn listed. "The cost of DWIs to society is huge, because at some point we all share the burden with rising insurance costs, police services, prosecutors, public defenders, jail costs -- it's pretty significant.

"It keeps coming back to personal decisions, personal responsibility and making the right choices."

Flynn recommends that people plan in advance if they know they are going to be drinking when they are out somewhere.

"That's the No. 1 thing," Flynn exhorted. "If you plan on drinking, have a designated driver -- and that means zero alcohol for that person -- or take a taxi. It's a lot cheaper to take a taxi or have a sober friend give you a ride than it is to end up in the back of a police car."

Plus there's the risk of hurting others, who become the innocent victims of someone else's bad choices, Flynn said.

"I have yet to meet a person who planned to crash their car or hurt someone else, but I've been to dozens of accident scenes in over nine years of police work and have encountered everything from minor property damage to minor injuries to broken bones to death," said Flynn. "The latest crash I was at involved a van pulling out in front of a semi, and the van driver was under the influence and he died. The semi driver didn't die, but a lot of times it's someone innocent who bears the brunt of the injuries."

Flynn and his fiancée, Janel Halloran, are planning a late June wedding -- with lots of designated drivers. While Flynn currently lives in Apple Valley and enjoys attending the professional sporting activities the Twin Cities offer him in his leisure time, he relished growing up in Worthington and is appreciative of the environment here.

"I miss the small-town conveniences," Flynn admitted. "It's nice knowing a lot of people in a smaller town, even though there are a lot more places to go up here."

Wherever Flynn may be, you can be sure he is busy doing his part to keep the state safe for law-abiding citizens.

"It's an honor to be recognized for the work that I do," Flynn said modestly. "There are a lot of other troopers out there doing the same thing I do -- I just happen to have the highest number of DWI arrests. But we all have the same goal in mind: to make sure everyone gets where they're going safely."