Somerset Volunteers drink to help train police
By MICHELLE GANASSI
Daily American Staff Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2007 3:26 AM EDT
Six people helped local police by having a few drinks Wednesday.
Somerset Borough police Officer Stephen Borosky administers a field sobriety test on Tammy Labrel while Somerset County DUI Task Force Coordinator Franco Sanna, of the Somerset Borough police, watches. (Staff photo by Michelle Ganassi)
The volunteers consumed alcohol so the Somerset County DUI Task Force could practice administering field sobriety tests at the borough building.
The volunteers drank until their blood-alcohol content was around 0.12 percent. Instructors monitored the volunteers, performed breathalyzers and watched as the officers performed the tests.
Kurt Braun, instructor for the Institute for Law Enforcement Education, said the drill is designed to help police officers notice signs a person may exhibit when their BAC is slightly over the state legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Conemaugh Township police Officer Mike Popma said the training gave him a unique opportunity to work with intoxicated people instead of watching tests performed on a video.
“They've been impaired and you get to perform the tests in real time,” he said. “You see things you are going to see out in the field. Other types of training did not have this hands-on approach.”
Tammy Labrel, a criminal justice major and bartender, volunteered for the experience. Labrel said she thought smoking and eating lowered a person's blood-alcohol level, but she was surprised to find out she was wrong.
“I would do it again,” she said. “It's a different experience.”
For Popma, the training is a way to better prepare officers to make the streets safer.
Somerset Officer Franco Sanna, the task force coordinator, said local police officers were thrilled to have this experience.
“This has been something they have been waiting for, for years,” he said.
Braun said people are not allowed to leave until their blood-alcohol level drops below 0.05 percent. The volunteers were released to someone who signed a waiver taking responsibility for their actions and were told not to drive until today.
Sanna said the officers would take their practical exam today.
“The instructors watch us doing it step by step,” he said. “If we don't do it correctly, we fail.”
(Michelle Ganassi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)