Re­cruits get DUI train­ing with tipsy vol­un­teers

Teach­ers, friends spend day drink­ing at academy

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY JEREMY ARIAS

FRED­ER­ICK, MD. | Re­cruit Ja­cob De­mers strug­gled to keep a straight face as the woman in front of him broke into an­other fit of laugh­ter on a Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon at the Fred­er­ick po­lice train­ing cen­ter.

“Do you see it?” Fred­er­ick Po­lice Of­fi­cer 1st Class Stephanie Sparks asked Mr. De­mers as the woman com­posed her­self and locked her eyes back on a pen Mr. De­mers was hold­ing about a foot from her face as part of a field so­bri­ety test.

“Yes. It’s not as promi­nent in this eye, but I def­i­nitely saw it jump,” Mr. De­mers said.

Mr. De­mers and Of­fi­cer Sparks were re­fer­ring to the in­vol­un­tary, left-to-right jerk­ing move­ments a per­son’s eyes make that be­come more ex­ag­ger­ated when they have been drink­ing.

Be­fore the tests, Sgt. Matt Car­rado, one of the lead in­struc­tors for the academy’s 40-hour drunken driv­ing en­force­ment ses­sion, ex­plained the sig­nif­i­cance of what of­fi­cers call “hor­i­zon­tal gaze nys­tag­mus.”

“When you’ve con­sumed al­co­hol, your eyes get very slow, just like your re­ac­tion time when you’re driv­ing gets slow, so with nys­tag­mus, your eye is go­ing to bounce back and forth, back and forth,” Sgt. Car­rado said.

Dur­ing the class­room por­tion of the week, the re­cruits learned about the three in­di­ca­tors or “clues” to look for dur­ing the eye test. The clues in­clude the in­abil­ity of a per­son’s eyes to move smoothly back and forth, nys­tag­mus af­ter about 45 de­grees and sus­tained eye jerk­ing in a per­son’s pe­riph­eral vi­sion, Sgt. Car­rado said.

“If I see four of those six clues — three clues in two eyes, so we have six to­tal clues — there’s an 88 per­cent chance that the per­son is over a .10,” the sergeant said. “It’s just a sci­en­tific fact.”

Field so­bri­ety tests also in­clude the walk-and-turn test and a bal­ance test com­plete with their own sets of clues to help of­fi­cers de­ter­mine whether a per­son is over the state’s le­gal limit for driv­ing of .08 blood al­co­hol con­cen­tra­tion (BAC), but the eyes are usu­ally the first and best in­di­ca­tors, Sgt. Car­rado said.

Be­cause nys­tag­mus is in­vol­un­tary and an im­paired per­son’s move­ments are dif­fi­cult to fake, the depart­ment in­vites small groups of vol­un­teers — teach­ers, friends of the in­struc­tors and even a few em­ploy­ees of the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice — to spend an af­ter­noon drink­ing at the academy.

Sev­eral bot­tles of bour­bon and vodka lined a counter in the train­ing cen­ter’s largest class­room, where the seven vol­un­teers took turns tak­ing breath tests ad­min­is­tered by Sgt. Car­rado and fel­low in­struc­tor Sgt. An­drew Al­corn. By the time the re­cruits came in, six of the seven vol­un­teers were at or above the le­gal limit for driv­ing.

“We ac­tu­ally have one of our ‘drinkers’ who hasn’t been drink­ing at all, who is our dummy, so we want them to see, are they see­ing things that aren’t there. … The first thing I tell them on day one is the two big­gest mis­takes you can make in DUI en­force­ment is ar­rest­ing a sober per­son and let­ting a drunk driver go,” Sgt. Car­rado said.

Back in the large class­room, re­cruits Peter McAdams and Tyler Branche gave Sgt. Car­rado their ini­tial im­pres­sion af­ter hav­ing put one of the vol­un­teers, Francesca Foel­ber, through the three tests.

“I wouldn’t ar­rest her, but I’d prob­a­bly have her call to get a ride home,” Mr. McAdams said, ex­plain­ing that he thought Mrs. Foel­ber was likely at or just under the le­gal limit.

Sgt. Car­rado smiled as he and Mrs. Foel­ber ex­changed a quick glance. Mrs. Foel­ber’s hus­band, Paul, was at a 0.12 BAC as he stum­bled through the walk-and-turn test for a dif­fer­ent group of re­cruits across the room, but Mrs. Foel­ber was the sober vol­un­teer in the group.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vol­un­teer Paul Foel­ber loses his bal­ance as Of­fi­cer 1st Class Sean Geiser stands watch in case he falls dur­ing a so­bri­ety test per­formed by re­cruits dur­ing a DUI en­force­ment train­ing ses­sion in Fred­er­ick, Mary­land.

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