Question: How do state troopers and law enforcement train to detect how drunk drivers actually are?
Answer: They get people drunk and then practice on them, in a controlled setting, with volunteers who don’t drive themselves home.
“[The cadets] learn the sights, they learn the smells, they learn the actions,” said Sgt. Rob Madden of Colorado State Patrol. “They will learn the flush face, they will see the indicators, then they have to identify to make their decision ultimately to arrest or not to arrest.”
Madden said CSP has operated what it calls a “wet lab” for each academy class for about 10 years.
Madden said such programs are common in law enforcement, but citizens may not think about how troopers learn to the right steps during DUI stops.
“I don’t think the common citizen understands why the training occurs. I don’t think they know the training is there,” Madden said. “I say that from the perspective of listening to the people I have arrested for DUIs who question how I know.”
According to CSP, fatal drug and alcohol-related crashes are up in 2017 by more than 35 percent, compared to 2016.
CSP said 56 fatal crashes occurred in 2016, compared to 76 deadly crashes during the same period in 2017.
CSP said it provides DUI training to all cadets -- brand new troopers and seasoned law enforcement officers -- who are applying to work for state patrol.
To be able to do that, the agency needs drinking volunteers. Seven showed up Wednesday morning to the CSP Academy where Master Sgt. Bill Barkley played bar attender.
“Serving alcohol is kind of strange,” he said of pouring drinks at work. “It's all in the name of science. It's good.”
Stephanie Wallace works for CSP, but Wednesday she was a volunteer to help the cadets.
“It is overall a great experience for them to see how everybody interacts intoxicated or not,” she said. “Obviously I’m intoxicated right at the moment.”
Aaron Schanhals’ brother-in-law works at CSP. He asked if Schanhals would help in the wet lab Wednesday. Schanhals is on vacation, but still said yes.
“I get to drink for free? Yeah,” he said. “Live training is always the best kind of training.”
“Some of our cadets have not seen somebody under the influence, some of our cadets have never experienced alcohol themselves,” Sgt. Madden said. “They will now have first-hand knowledge with the additional benefit of being able to know the outcome of everything. And it’s a safe environment.”