Friday, May 9, 2008

WEEK 13: Field Sobriety Testing Training

This week, the students went through standardized field sobriety testing training. They learn to administer a series of exams so they can build a probable cause case to arrest someone who’s been driving while intoxicated.

1.) The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN): Horizontal gaze nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball which occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, the jerking can occur at lesser angles.

2.) The Walk-and-Turn: The walk-and-turn is a divided-attention test in which the subject is directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps the subject must turn on one foot and return in the same manner the opposite direction. There are eight indicators of impairment associated with this test.

3.) The One-Leg Stand: The one-leg stand test is also a divided attention test where the subject is instructed to stand with one leg approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. There are four indicators of impairment for this test.

Police officers look for specific clues and indicators that the subject may be intoxicated. If somebody makes multiple mistakes during one test, the officer likely has probable cause. They also look at how well a person follows directions. All the indicators help the officer build a case for probable cause.

“It is important to build a good case, because there have been instances where cases have been reduced or dismissed,” Mr. Santo said. “It is very important to document their reason for the initial traffic stop and the reason why they administered the tests. By itself, one of the pieces of evidence may not indicate the person is intoxicated, but when all the indicators are put together, there is usually a strong case.”

Interesting tidbits …

Monday and Tuesday the cadets learned basic Spanish. The idea is to give officers key words and phrases that can help them identify a threat. They also learn commands for arrest and direction. In addition, they learn how to ask someone if they need help and what kind of help they need.

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