HARLINGEN — Police Cadet Crystal Casarez said a field sobriety course she took this week will help her keep the streets safe from drunken drivers when she becomes a police officer.
Casarez, 22, of Mercedes, and 19 other cadets from around the Rio Grande Valley and one police officer from Donna took part in the three-day course that combined live practice and classroom training on learning the telltale signs of drunken driving.
The goal of the course is to certify cadets and officers to conduct a standardized field sobriety test on suspected drunken drivers, William McGinnis, police academy instructor with the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, said.
McGinnis said cadets and officers must pass a written and a practical exam to be certified.
On Tuesday evening, cadets and officers participated in an exercise in which volunteers were given alcoholic beverages, Robert McCrea, a certified instructor and police officer with the Mission Police Department, said.
The volunteers who had consumed the alcohol were then observed by cadets who noted the physical effects of alcohol, such as slurred speech, impaired mobility and eye movement twitches.
Casarez said that although volunteers were drinking in a controlled environment, alcohol poses a real threat for those who drink it and to innocent drivers on the roads.
In this simulation, instructors said, cadets can gain the experience of actual police work in the field.
“Everyone handles their alcohol differently,” Casarez said. “When you have alcohol in your system, it’s going to affect the way you act and drive.”
Cadets were expected to complete the sobriety course Wednesday, and graduate from the academy in October, McGinnis said.
“Ultimately, we want to get impaired drivers off the road, and cut down on fatalities,” McCrea said.