Volunteers booze up to help Wichita cops learn DUI detection

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Have you ever wondered how law enforcement officers learn to detect drunk drivers? In Wichita, recruits get a week’s worth of hands-on-training to better understand how different people react to alcohol.

It’s part of the standardized field sobriety testing portion at the Wichita/Sedgwick County Law Enforcement Training Center. On Tuesday, KSN sat in on the training.

Here’s how it works: The recruits drive to the volunteers homes, pick them up and bring them back to the training center. While the recruits go over study material in another room, academy instructors give the volunteers different amounts of alcohol based on things like their weight and gender.

“We are not here to get them tanked. We are here to get them just over the legal limit because anybody can pick a .2 drunk, so we don’t want them that high, we want them just at where they are killing people, maybe even a little low so that we can start getting these impaired drivers off the street,” said Wichita Police Detective Virgil Miller. “Our goal is to get these people at that just over that .08 mark so that the clues we are looking at on the three standard field sobriety tests are seen.”

“It’s interesting. I’ve never had a police officer ask me what do you want to drink,” said volunteer Jerrod McNutt. “It’s like a science experiment, live science experiment.”

The experiment, per se, is then moved into the training center’s gym. That’s where the recruits get the hands on experience in DUI detection. Each recruit puts a volunteer through a series of sobriety tests including the horizontal gaze test, the walk and turn test and the one-leg stand test.

Miller, who has taught the class for more than a decade, said it’s key to practice the tests on impaired individuals.

“Wichita and Sedgwick County is very, very fortunate because they don’t have wet workshops at a lot of areas around the county,” Miller said. “The hands on, in my opinion, is a much better option than watching a video.”

Ultimately, Miller said the wet workshops prepare law enforcement officers for what’s to come.

“It’s saving lives. That’s what cops are here to do. It’s proactive law enforcement. If we can stop someone before they crash into something and send someone to jail before they kill someone for a lesser crime, you know, maybe they won’t do it again,” Miller said.

Miller said the academy does not spend any money on the alcohol given to the volunteers. The alcohol has either been confiscated or cleared from a previous police case. The recruits also drive each of the volunteers home at the end of the night.

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