The drinks were on the house.
In fact, police officers encouraged a group of people to drink until they were drunk Tuesday and Wednesday in Youngsville.
The volunteer drinkers helped a group of law enforcement agents recognize degrees of intoxication.
Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry
Follow the light
Lt. Randy Carlson of Conewango Township Police Department administers a horizontal gaze nystagnus sobriety test during a Standardized Field Sobriety Test training with intoxicated volunteers Wednesday at Youngsville volunteer fire hall.
A class of officers including Conewango Township and Youngsville Borough police, county sheriffs' deputies from four different counties, the Pennsylvania Game and Fish and Boat commissions, and Indiana Borough police finished up a three-day course on the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests on Wednesday.
Instead of watching videos about field sobriety tests, the students were able to deal with live subjects who had been drinking.
The volunteers, 10 on Tuesday, but only five on Wednesday, started drinking at about 9 a.m. at the Youngsville fire hall.
They passed the time by playing cards and, later, cornhole.
By 12:30 p.m., they were ready for testing.
According to Institute for Law Enforcement Education (ILEE) lead instructor Tom Winters, the target BAC for Wednesday's volunteers was about 0.11 percent - three-tenths of a point above the legal limit. The target rate was 0.14 on Tuesday.
The officers, some of whom have been working in the field for 15 years, had each subject go through the standardized tests. Subjects had to take nine heel-to-toe steps in a straight line, count while standing on one foot, and watch a moving light without moving their heads - the horizontal gaze nystagnus.
"It's hands-on training," Winters said. "They get to see what they're looking for right in front of them."
"The alternative is watching videos," he said. The live version is a superior training tool.
"When they're done with all this, they're pretty good at determining who gets arrested," Youngsville Police Chief Todd Mineweaser, who was the host of the training, said.
The course is not offered every year, nor to every new officer. "There's no requirement that an officer go through this ever in their career," Winters said.
ILEE travels to the chosen location and conducts the class at no charge if a local group can gather at least 20 officers who need the training.
Food and drinks were provided for the volunteers.
Not just anyone can sign up.
There is a four-page "volunteer drinker application" that must be submitted in advance and approved before one can participate. There are 33 questions, one of which has 10 parts, on that application. One or the other answer on most of the questions will disqualify an applicant.
With 21 officers in training, 10 volunteer drinkers was a shortfall on Tuesday, and five was a real shortage on Wednesday.
Not everyone is up for free drinks on a weekday morning.
Kris Upton of Irvine was one of the volunteers. All of them had marked that they did not wish to be photographed nor identified on their applications, but Upton consented to an on-the-record interview at the site.
When Mineweaser asked if he would volunteer, Upton had more than one reason to do so, but not the obvious one.
"If I can help somebody train, I'm doing a good deed. If I can help somebody save a life, I'm all about it," Upton said. "It's a good thing to know where I think my limits are."
By 2:45, a little more than two hours after his last drink, Upton's BAC was 0.052.
Upton tried to recruit some friends and co-workers to participate, but none would, he said. Some were simply uncomfortable with the thought of getting drunk in front of police.
The volunteers were not allowed to leave until their BACs had dropped below 0.05. They were not allowed to drive themselves home. Police did the driving for most.