Area po­lice of­fi­cers use vol­un­teers for real-life DUI train­ing

The Covington News - - LOCAL - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­news.com

The blar­ing blue flash­ing lights be­hind The Main Event in Por­terdale Wed­nes­day did not re­sult in any ar­rests, but it would have had it been a real-life sit­u­a­tion.

The city of Por­terdale and the Por­terdale Po­lice Depart­ment hosted the Ge­or­gia Public Safety Train­ing Cen­ter (GPSTC) Tues­day through Thurs­day to con­duct of­fi­cer train­ing ses­sions for DUI de­tec­tion and field so­bri­ety test­ing. But it wasn’t just slideshows, notes and tests.

Sixteen po­lice of­fi­cers from de­part­ments in Por­terdale, Cov­ing­ton, New­ton County, So­cial Cir­cle and Henry County were able to prac­tice the steps and ex­am­ine sig­nals with five vol­un­teers who were in­tox­i­cated. They didn’t just grab drunken peo­ple off the streets or from a bar. GPSTC con­ducted a con­trolled so­cial ex­per­i­ment to get the three men and two women to a blood al­co­hol con­tent (BAC) that would con­sti­tute il­le­gal lev­els in Ge­or­gia (.08).

No one ac­tu­ally drove. While the of­fi­cers were down­stairs in The Main Event wrestling arena, learn­ing how to de­tect signs of in­tox­i­ca­tion dur­ing a field so­bri­ety test and prac­tic­ing pro­ce­dures on each other, the vol­un­teers were given a mixed drink with 2 ounces of liquor ev­ery 20 min­utes, with sub­se­quent drinks mon­i­tored and ad­justed ac­cord­ing to each per­son’s ap­par­ent level of in­tox­i­ca­tion.

“It teaches them what to look for, what they will ex­pe­ri­ence in a real-life sit­u­a­tion,” said J.R. Harper, Ge­or­gia, the drug recog­ni­tion ex­pert co­or­di­na­tor for GPSTC.

The goal was to get the vol­un­teers’ BAC just above the le­gal limit.

“Any­one can find a .23 (BAC),” Harper said. “What we want to teach our stu­dents is how to find the .08s and .09s. It re­ally ad­dresses the needs in the com­mu­nity be­cause now they’ll have 16 more (drug recog­ni­tion) of­fi­cers than they did three days ago.”

For smaller cities and po­lice forces, that num­ber means a lot.

Sci­en­tific con­sump­tion

When you throw a group of rel­a­tive strangers — def­i­nitely not peo­ple who go bar-hop­ping to­gether – in a room and feed them al­co­hol for two hours, you never know what you’ll get out of their be­hav­ior. But Harper knows ex­actly what he ex­pects out of their bod­ies’ re­ac­tions to the drinks.

“We’ve got it down to a pretty good sci­ence,” Harper said.

Breath­a­lyz­ers were ad­min­is­tered be­fore any al­co­hol was con­sumed to make sure ev­ery­one started at .00 BAC. New­ton County Fire Depart­ment per­son­nel checked ev­ery­one’s blood pres­sure and vi­tals to make sure they were at nor­mal lev­els.

Harper mea­sured two shots in each drink “to jump start the body, then we’ll dose back as it goes.”

“It makes our streets safer,” said Tim Sav­age, owner of The Main Event and a Por­terdale City Coun­cil mem­ber. “A well-ed­u­cated po­lice force knows how to bet­ter han­dle the public. We’re on an in­cline. To see some of the lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions pulling to­gether like this is great.

“If we’re go­ing to loosen the laws and al­low al­co­hol in restau­rants, it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Af­ter the third drink, the vol­un­teers were given a break while their BACs were recorded again. Fur­ther drinks were mea­sured based on that BAC, gen­der, weight,

ex­pe­ri­ence and self-re­ported tol­er­ance.

Over within min­utes

Af­ter four drinks, the vol­un­teers were ready to meet their of­fi­cers. They were taken out­side to po­lice cars with flash­ing lights to sim­u­late be­ing pulled over. Of­fi­cers ro­tated in groups between each vol­un­teer, ad­min­is­ter­ing field so­bri­ety tests and record­ing their find­ings.

“There’s more to it than just wav­ing our fingers,” said Larry Mooney, Ge­or­gia Po­lice Academy in­struc­tor for GPSTC. “There’s a lot of sci­ence to it.”

Even if some­one passes the tests, in­clud­ing walk­ing in a straight line and stand­ing on one foot, Mooney said the eyes give you away “ev­ery time.” He teaches stu­dents to look for six of the 27 mus­cles in the eyes. If the per­son is in­tox­i­cated, the eyes will make jerk­ing move­ments as they scan from one side to the other. And there is no way to con­trol it, he said.

Mooney went around to of­fi­cers dur­ing the so­bri­ety tests, ad­just­ing a flash­light here and giv­ing a note on how to word an in­struc­tion there.

The tim­ing of train­ing fit with a real-life night out, too. Af­ter two hours of drink­ing and talk­ing, of­fi­cers found signs of in­tox­i­ca­tion within min­utes. Back in­side, the of­fi­cers agreed all five vol­un­teers would have been ar­rested.

The to­tal cost to Por­terdale, in­clud­ing the al­co­hol and of­fi­cer hours, was about $300, ac­cord­ing to Ja­son Cripps, Por­terdale’s act­ing po­lice chief. The cost was in­cluded in the yearly bud­get as a train­ing pro­ce­dure.

“You spend just that much now, but the re­turn on in­vest­ment is through the roof,” Cripps said. “If you save one life, what is that worth? If you save one child’s life or one fam­ily, it’s well worth it.”

Dar­rell Everidge/The Cov­ing­ton News

Cov­News.

com: Watch the video of the DUi train­ing hosted by the Por­terdale Po­lice Depart­ment.

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