July 21, 2005 at 9:42 a.m.
Area law enforcement officers enrolled in a training held Monday night at Lindstrom Community Center aimed at gaining proficiency in administering Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.
This is a series of both observations and tests of an offender’s motor skills. The findings need to be documented to lawfully detain a suspected DUI offender. The findings need to be gathered correctly in order to be admissible later in court.
Practice is about the only way officers gain confidence in doing the field testing and the best way to practice is to run through the routine, testing a subject who is drunk.
That’s just what the officers were doing.
In a session sponsored by the Chisago-Isanti County MADD Chapter and Lakes Area Police Dept. volunteers consumed beer and cocktails at the community center to attain various levels of intoxication. The volunteers were then put through standardized field testing and the officers estimated the level of blood alcohol concentration in the volunteers.
The training session also included testimony from victims who have lived through drunk driving crashes.
One young woman from North Branch shared her story about a 1997 crash that took the life of her 23-year-old boyfriend. She said she speaks at programs like this and at MADD Impact Panels to ensure that her boyfriend didn’t have to die for no reason.
Another area family told of their experience following a head-on crash in Wisconsin, where the drunk driver died. The family incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses and years were lost to injury recovery.
The speakers stressed that the officers do make a difference, and even though it seems to be an uphill climb-- law enforcement needs to keep motivated and doing what they do.
Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) Officer Tim Tougas, of Lakes Area Police, offered training on establishing probable cause to administer a portable breath test.
Tougas walked everybody through the outward indicators of chemical and alcohol use and explained which physical responses generally match which substance use.
Then, the inebriated volunteers were put through their paces.
Officers practiced testing and recognizing drinkers’ eye movements, level of imbalance and their concentration loss. They noted the subjects’ demeanor and related impairments.
Trainers were able to give instruction standing alongside the officer doing actual testing. Officers commented that the session was very valuable, especially the opportunity to witness and compare the varying levels of intoxication.
The subjects were brought to the community center and returned home by Lakes Area police personnel.
MADD celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2005. Victim support is available at 1-877-MADD-HELP. The local chapter can be reached at 651-209-3251.
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