Fort Wainwright Police officers hone skills to nab intoxicated drivers
February 7, 2014
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Getting drivers who are under the influence of alcohol off the road has long been a priority for law enforcement professionals throughout the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults drink too much and drive more than 112 million times per year, which equates to nearly 300,000 incidents of drinking and driving a day.
The Fort Wainwright police officers remain vigilant in reducing this number especially on post through required in-service training annually. "We [recently] did a refresher on the SFSTs (standard field sobriety tests), DUI law and paperwork, and both written and practical exams," said Capt. Barbara Drapeau, military police, Provost Marshal Office operations officer.
Drapeau said the students received some refresher instruction in the classroom on day one and on the second day, Jan. 29, practiced in the morning for a "wet lab" practical exam in the afternoon.
In a controlled environment a group of Soldiers from the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division agreed to serve as drivers under the influence [although there was no actual driving involved].
An obviously inebriated Pfc. Michael Rodriguez said, "They just let us start drinking at about 11:30 (a.m.) for about an hour or so and started asking us questions. I think I had about five beers and three mixed drinks." After more than two and a half hours later and on his seventh attempt at the SFST, he said, "I think I'm finally getting it."
Lt. Christopher Jeter, Fort Wainwright Police Department, agreed that Rodriguez was following instructions better, was able to walk a straight line and could balance, but still demonstrated signs through the HGN (Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) or pen test, that would be cause enough to "take him in."
"The pen test gives officers scientific evidence, that individuals who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol have difficulties following a moving object," Jeter said. In addition, these same people often experience an involuntary jerking of the eye--a natural phenomena known as nystagmus. HGN tests, therefore, are used to determine whether suspected DUI offenders show signs of being intoxicated even if they can perform the other tests adequately.
All refresher training was taught by Lt. Dave McKillican, who evaluated each officer on procedures and performance during a routine traffic stop, providing feedback and making corrections if necessary.
"The wet lab gave the Department of Army civilian police a refresher on traffic stops and what the tests look like when people are drunk and trying to perform them," said Drapeau. The last day was a law class from the District Attorney's office, paperwork refresher and a written exam. "This training was a success and enables our civilian police officers to keep their training current so they can enforce law on Fort Wainwright," she said.