New Duluth Police Officers Train For Field Sobriety Tests

DULUTH, Minn. — The culture of drinking and driving in Minnesota has changed since the 1980s when more than 250 people died every year in alcohol-related crashes. Since 2010, that number now averages around 127 deaths every year. But authorities stress even one death a year is far too many. FOX 21’s Dan Hanger gives you a look inside the Duluth Police Department’s real-world training for its new officers to make sure they are on point when it comes to DWI arrests.

“It’s good experience to do it hands on to see how they actual react and see every step of the process,” said Ryan Vang, a newly hired Duluth police officer.

Vang and his 14 other fellow recruits have learned the ropes in the classroom, but the training goes behind that with volunteer suspects under the influence with a blood alcohol level more than the legal limit of .08.

“We can see their eyes bouncing around — can see them really unsteady on their feet, unable to balance,” Vang said.

Sgt. Ryan Morris believes this type of real-world training is vital before performing a field sobriety test on city streets.

“You can learn about it in theory, you can watch a little video on a video screen, but until you see it in person and you see a number of different types of drinkers that might show some different signs of impairment — you don’t learn as much as opposed to doing those actual tests,” Morris said.

Sgt. Morris says the Duluth Police Department teaches a standardized test for making DWI arrests.

The goal is producing evidence that will stand up in court.

“I always like to say in the class, it’s not just these Voodoo tests that we come up with. These are actually studied scientifically. They’ve been tested – validated,” Morris said.

And while some may think the cops are out to get them, Sgt. Morris says it’s the complete opposite and about continuing to change the culture of drinking and driving — all to avoid life-changing consequences.

“As a crash investigator, we see what can happen. We see the carnage that happens afterward. It’s such a preventable thing. It’s a personal decision that people can make to not do that,” Morris said.

Field sobriety testing also happens yearly for veteran officers.

Duluth police remind driver to always plan ahead, have a designated driver and take advantage of Lyft, Uber, cabs and even Operation Joy Ride at participating bars where you can get a free cab voucher home if you’ve had too much to drink.

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