Teaching Tulsa Police rookies how to spot a drunk driver

Wednesday, November 3rd 2004, 10:28 am
By: News On 6

Some Tulsa Police officers got drunk at work Wednesday. They were teaching the rookie officers the complexities of dealing with drunks, some hands-on experience they needed.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright was there as they decided who should go to jail and who shouldn’t.

These highly trained, skilled veteran officers are taking one for the team; they're getting drunk and taking hourly breathalyzers. Once they're properly intoxicated to different levels, they subject themselves to the police rookie class' field sobriety tests.

Rookie: "Are you paying attention to me?"

Officer: "Yes, walk and count, I know what to do.”

Rookie: "Go ahead."

Officer: "One, two three."

The rookies must decide which officer is legally impaired, which should be arrested or released. It's made all the harder because some, like this officer, didn't drink a drop. Rookie: "I'm going to have you hold your leg up and count until I tell you to stop, do you understand?"

One of the most important things these rookies learn is that the people who look the drunkest aren't necessarily so. That's what makes it so important to rely less on their instincts and more on their training. Spotting an impaired person takes training and experience, which is better done in this controlled environment than on the streets.

Tulsa Police officer Steve Skidmore: "Let's face it, anybody can walk into a bar and tell who's plastered. We want them to identify the 06s, 07s, people who are impaired and chargeable and it's hard if not had this type of training." They learn that many factors affect a person's alcohol intake, size, metabolism and drinking history.

Tulsa Police rookie Matt Frazier: "It was very surprising. Some people who like to drink a little bit more and have a tolerance or those who've never had a drink before, it's surprising how their levels and tests differentiate."

Come Thursday, these rookies will be better prepared to protect us against drunk drivers and the officers can at least take comfort knowing their hangovers were for a good cause.

Tulsa Police say some people actually drink, then practice these field sobriety tests in hopes they'll be able to fool the police. But officers are trained to observe very specific reactions, some of which cannot be faked.

A designated driver took all the drinking officers home Wednesday afternoon.