The Citizens Police Academy (CPA) is a public outreach program administered by the Sevierville Police Department (SPD). The ten week program is free to the public and teaches private citizens about the work conducted by the local police department.
Keeping the streets safe from drunk drivers was on the agenda this week in CPA. The topic was DUI (driving under the influence) enforcement. Patrol Officer Preston Parrish is a K-9 and crash investigator with the Sevierville Police Department.
Parrish explained that DUI investigations are a three phase process. First the patrol officer observes vehicles for signs that the driver may be intoxicated, such as weaving in traffic, turning with a wide radius and unusually slow driving. Once these signs are noted the office conducts a pull over. The officer then makes initial contact with the driver looking for signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, slow movements, bloodshot eyes, soiled clothing and the odor of liquor. In many instances suspects have made admissions of guilt to the investigating officer and in some cases these statements have been very unusual. Parrish aired a video of an arrest he made in which the suspect was pulled over and began acting erratically.
Once the suspect was pulled over Parrish approached the car and stood at his window for more than 30 seconds. The suspect did not acknowledged his presence. He simply stared out the windshield until Parris knocked on the window. When Parrish asked the suspect to exit the vehicle the intoxicated driver called his wife and told her he was going to jail although Parrish had not told him so. The suspect then exited the car and told him, “I don’t want to get anybody in trouble.” He then turned and put his hands behind his back to be cuffed without being told to do so. Parrish then initiated a field sobriety test which the subject failed. The suspect was arrested and it was later revealed that this was his third DUI. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to 120 days in jail.
Parrish explained the Tennessee Implied Consent Law. When a state resident obtains a driver’s license they sign a document giving police the consent to administer a field sobriety test which may include the use of a breathalyzer or taking blood. Should a suspect refuse to submit to the tests, they will be charged with violating the Implied Consent Law, punishable by a one-year revocation of the driver’s license. The convicted drunk driver may apply for a restricted driver’s license for work purposes but they will be required by law to have an ignition interlock installed. Before the car can be started the interlock system would require the driver to blow into a device that would determine blood alcohol content. If the driver’s BAC is over the legal limit the car will not start.
The SPD has been diligent in patrolling for DUI suspects. This vigilance has resulted in numerous arrests and fewer fatalities. According to Parrish, there were no drunk driving fatalities in 2012 and 2013. However, there have been three alcohol related fatalities in 2014.
Next week the academy will cover a common problem that is rapidly growing: protecting your family from identity theft.