Prosecutors Get Drunk to Teach Cops How to ID Tipsy Drivers

It was a stinking job. But someone had to do it, so seven assistant prosecutors and probation officers voluntarily got stinking drunk, to help train police recruits for the task of identifying tipsy motorists.

The exercise took place at the police academy at Johnson County Community College this week as the season of holiday conviviality loomed.

For three hours, the volunteers sat at a table and knocked back beer and cocktails, even inventing a drinking game: They gave each other animal nicknames, such as Mongoose, Ferret and Fruit Bat, and anyone forgetting to use another participant's moniker had to take a drink.

Johnson County Deputy Bob Hamilton acted as a kind of grumpy bartender and wrote down each drink.

Silliness grew along with blood-alcohol levels. One woman danced to music only she could hear. Probation officer Rachel Bosworth made an observation based on personal experience: "Makeup dissolves when you're drunk — so if you see someone coming out of a bar with no makeup, you should probably arrest her."

After three hours, the volunteers blew into a machine that recorded their blood-alcohol contents from .086 to .134, all above the .08 driving limit. A prosecutor temporarily known as Kung Fu Panda tested lowest, and Bosworth tested highest.

Then it was time to perform for the police recruits.

Bosworth followed a recruit's finger with her eyes as he waved it from right to left. As her eyes moved, they jerked slightly — something no drunk can control.

She successfully walked nine steps heel to toe on a line of duct tape with hands at her side, then turned and walked back. Then the rookie demanded she stand on one foot. After 18 seconds, she toppled to one side and put down the other foot.

If they were on a street, the officer would test her with a portable breath machine and then arrest her and take her to the station, where she would blow into the "Intoxilyzer 8000" — a breath machine calibrated to suit courts and the law.

Hamilton noted that more than 18,000 DUI arrests made in Kansas each year cost each person thousands of dollars. If you drink over the holiday weekend, he said, it is far better to call a cab.

At the end, probation officer Carolyn Bartlett put an arm around Bosworth, and they said they felt good about a bonding experience that helped train police officers. They felt really good, actually.

As for the recruits, they are expected to be on the streets before the Christmas holidays.