In an effort to bolster Luke Air Force Base’s DUI prevention tactics, the Prescott Police Department, in conjunction with the 56th Security Forces Squadron, hosted a three-day Driving Under the Influence Enforcement training.
Seven students, six from Luke and one from the AK-Chin Police Department, took part in the “Standardized Field Sobriety Testing/Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus” or SFST/HGN certification course.
Having the workshop at Luke was important to Prescott Police Officer Mark Parker, who is also a staff sergeant in the Air Force Reserve assigned to the 56th SFS as an individual mobilization augmentee.
“I wanted to bring the course here because we haven’t had this kind of training at Luke for quite some time,” said Parker, who works full time with the Prescott PD’s traffic safety division. “We need to have more officers certified in impaired driver detection here at Luke. Year-to-date, there have been four impaired drivers apprehended on base, which is a very small portion of the total number of military members arrested for DUI this year. It’s safe to say that a large number of impaired drivers are getting through the gate undetected, not because our officers are not being vigilant, they just didn’t know what to look for.”
Once Luke law enforcement officers complete their training they will become certified SFST/HGN administrators skilled in the recognition, field testing, and apprehension of impaired drivers, Parker said.
The first two and a half days of training included an in-depth lesson on the history and development of the SFST program, how the tests were scientifically validated, and the case law that backs it all up. Additionally, students completed numerous hours of practice sessions and were required to pass written and practical exams. The last day of the course encompassed a “wet workshop” where 18 volunteers from across the base consumed alcohol over several hours; the volunteers periodically submitted to a breathalyzer to measure their Breath Alcohol Concentration, or BrAC, to ensure they were ready for student testing.
Several hours after the volunteers started drinking, students came in to test what they’d learned over the previous few days. Without knowing how much alcohol each volunteer consumed or what their BrAC was, the students put all 18 drinkers through a battery of tests — the HGN, Walk and Turn and the One-Leg Stand. Based on observations and what they’d learned, students had to decide whether or not they would apprehend the subject.
“Looking at the students’ progress, I’d say they’re pretty accurate in their assessments — right around 90 percent,” said Deputy Logan Moody, a volunteer instructor from the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. “They’re well on their way to certification.”
In order to be completely certified, students must first assess 35 subjects with at least an 80 percent correct arrest/don’t arrest decision. They are then required to test five more subjects in the presence of an instructor; only one miss is allowed for final certification. With 18 assessments successfully completed, the students are halfway there.
The six students from Luke were chosen by their flight leadership as those who could benefit most from the training or others who’ve done extremely well in their jobs, said Tech. Sgt. Kelly Speaks, 56th SFS training NCOIC.
Officer Joe Larson has worked at Luke for four years and said he volunteered for the training, which took place on his days off.
“I always volunteer for training,” he said. “This will only help me do my job and help keep the community safe.”
Speaks said the training can only benefit the Luke and local communities.
“We hope that people are making the right decisions, but we can tell by the DUI board at the gates there are people out there pushing the limits,” she said. “This training will allow these officers to immediately identify if someone is driving under the influence.”
“Our ultimate goal here is to deter impaired drivers from ever getting behind the wheel,” Parker said. “We’re trying to make our community safer. Think before you make that decision to drive. If you drink, have a plan. If you drive, we’ll catch you and arrest you.”
The experience was beneficial for the drinkers, as well. Having their BrAC tested while drinking was eye-opening.
Senior Airman Jeremy McCalmon from the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron Egress Flight had five drinks before his first breathalyzer when he registered .133 – not far away from twice the legal limit of .08. McCalmon said he’d eaten a normal breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks and water while drinking.
“I was definitely surprised,” said McCalmon, 24. “I feel good. I don’t feel drunk at all.”
The course is a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration certified course, was sponsored by the Prescott PD and approved to be held at Luke by the Arizona Governor’s Officer of Highway Safety, who donated training materials. In addition to Parker and Moody, volunteer instructors included: Officer Kris Johnston, Glendale Police Department DUI Enforcement Squad; Officer Jason Miller, Glendale PD DUI Enforcement Squad; and Officer Hugh Grant, Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Did you know …
- You can be apprehended and charged with a DUI while having a BAC of less than .08 percent? It’s true – the charge of “impaired to the slightest degree” applies to those drivers who register .05-.079 percent.
- Court fines start at $1,600 for a DUI charge?
- Alcohol continues to be absorbed through the bloodstream as long as it stays in the stomach.
- The Standardized Field Test Battery is scientifically validated and has been proven to be extremely accurate based on field studies?
- It takes more than 5 hours for the average person to completely metabolize the alcohol it takes to register a .08 percent Blood Alcohol Content, 10 hours when an average person drinks enough to register a BAC of .15 percent and almost 24 hours for someone who drinks enough to register .25 percent?
- Many DUI arrests don’t involve just alcohol, but drivers taking prescribed medications? Don’t disregard warning labels such as, “Don’t operate heavy machinery,” “May cause drowsiness,” and “Don’t combine with alcohol.”
- If you drive after taking any substance that impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely you can be arrested and be prosecuted for a DUI?