Mercyhurst municipal police academy slates field sobriety training

It’s not every day that the director of Mercyhurst’s Municipal Police Training Academy has to think about stocking the bar for class, but that’s exactly what’s happening this week in North East.

As part of a field sobriety training class, 28 police officers from across northwest Pennsylvania will learn how to put drinkers through their paces and watch for signs of who’s had one too many. The goal is to better equip officers to detect individuals who may be driving under the influence.

The three-day program, offered by the police training academy in collaboration with the Institute for Law Enforcement Education, begins with classroom instruction on Monday, Oct. 17, followed by actual field school Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 18-19, at the academy, situated in the Janet L. Miller Center for Growth and Academic Excellence at 5999 Station Road in North East.

Program Director Bill Hale said about a half dozen volunteers from the local community will start drinking at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Another group of volunteers will do the same on Wednesday. They’ll have their choice of whiskey, vodka or rum. They will be carefully monitored throughout the morning as their blood alcohol level (BAC) increases toward a level of intoxication not to exceed .14 percent. In the state of Pennsylvania, you are considered to be driving under the influence if your BAC is .08 percent or more.

Once the drinkers are intoxicated, the police officers will run them through a series of field sobriety tests. There are several clues police look for during sobriety tests, including eyes. If someone's eyes can't follow an object, chances are they're impaired. Other tests include a walking test and a balance check.

The training may sound like fun, but it’s serious business, according to Hale.

“This training is for DUI enforcement,” he said. “It will make it easier for our police officers to recognize violators, plus it certifies them to give testimony in court,” he said.
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