Retired Independence Police Chief Tony Lucas has new purpose in Ignition Interlock Program

By Patricia Scheyer
NKyTribune reporter

Former Independence Police Chief Tony Lucas has spent a career in police work, entirely in Independence, where he grew up. Lucas had been “training” for that career since he was a child. When he was about 8, he rode his bike all over and as unofficial patrolman of the bicycles, he saw to it that the other kids followed the rules. And he said he would leave notes on his neighbors’ doors advising them to keep their doors locked.

“When I was 18 I became a volunteer firefighter and I was always right there whenever there was a fire that needed investigation,” he said. “In 1992 I became a police officer.”

Tony Lucas (Photo provided)

He rose through the ranks, holding every position in the force, eventually becoming Chief, a position he held until he retired last July.

“I was looking around for something else to do,” he mused. “It seemed time for me to take on something else.”

In August, Lucas was hired to fill an opening in a program with the state involving interlock ignitions. He is a Law Enforcement Liaison, through the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police, working with the Ignition Interlock Program. These devices have been around for a while, but the program to have them installed on cars belonging to people who have had DUI offenses is basically still in its infancy.

“I am very excited to be part of this program because it has tremendous potential to grow all across the state,” he said. “I am a big believer in locking ignitions. When I or my officers would stop people sometimes we would find that they were not supposed to be driving because of DUI offenses, but they were just taking a child to school, or to soccer practice or something involving the family that they have to do. With these devices, people who have had a DUI can continue to live their lives, and the ignition will lock if they blow into it and it registers too high on the alcohol level.”

The systems have undergone security improvements and have to be installed by certain companies that can only charge $135 for the installation. Part of Lucas’ job is to be sure the 110 active locations in the state that install these devices are following the regulations, and are not overcharging for the installation. Only 6 manufacturers are approved to make the devices.

“Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes three hours, especially for different makes of cars,” he said. “They can install them on electric cars, and even on motorcycles.”

Lucas spoke about a father who installed one on his son’s car when he went to college, so that if his son drank too much, he would not be able to drive his car.

“What we need is a change in legislation so that it becomes mandatory that if you get a DUI, you have to have this installed on your car,” said Lucas. “We’re trying to copy Tennessee. Tennessee has the best program going in the country.”

He said the project has to be teamwork, it is necessary to have partnership with the driver’s license office and with the vendors, and also with Highway Safety. Lucas is working with Kyle Stork, Coordinator of the Highway Safety Department.

The state passed Senate Bill 85 in 2020 which made significant changes to the DUI and Ignition Interlock laws. Now, the Transportation Cabinet delivers a fixed suspension time which is based on the offense. Once the offender has served a portion of the suspension time, he can apply to have an ignition interlock installed on his vehicle.

After 2020 all drunk driver offenders are able to apply for the Kentucky Ignition Interlock program. Offenders do have to complete a 90 to 120 consecutive day period of sober driving during their incentive program in order to have their suspension time shortened.

Offenders pay the $135 to have the device installed, and there are six companies that are certified to install the devices.

More information is available on the state’s website.

Meantime, Lucas is busy training, inspecting, driving and making acquaintances and friends.

His two sons, Drew and Chad are grown, and he now has three grandchildren to keep him busy at home. His wife, Lori, is supportive of his new career and sometimes she can go with him on trips.

“It is challenging,” he admitted. “I put 2000 to 3000 miles on the car every month. The friendships I’ve made — I must have 500 business cards since I started. I really miss the people and the Independence community, but now I have a much bigger community. I like the challenge and I like that I am helping to move a worthwhile program forward.”

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