Constable Chris Baillargeon teaching the standardized field sobriety test course for new officers at Chatham-Kent Police Service. November 29, 2017. Photo by Sarah Cowan Blackburn News Chatham-Kent).

New Officers Learn How To Test For Impaired Drivers

The Chatham-Kent Police Service’s newest recruits are being schooled on how to spot an impaired driver.

Constable Chris Baillargeon is teaching a new four-day standard field sobriety testing course until Thursday at the Park Avenue Business Centre in Chatham.

Baillargeon took the standard field sobriety testing and driver recognition expert course in 2006 and became an instructor in 2008. Since then, he has been instructing across North America.

He says this is the first time the course is being offered at the Chatham-Kent Police Service.

“Back in 2008, the legislation changed and in order to use standard sobriety testing, you have to actually be trained as a standard field sobriety test officer. Now that that has been changed in the criminal code, we have to train all the officers,” says Baillargeon.

Baillargeon says it is so important for officers to know how to spot an impaired driver.

“They get to see that there are more signs and symptoms than slurred speech, odor of alcohol on their breath, and unsteady on their feet. I’m training them to look at the whole investigation and look at every sign and sympton… they’re getting extra tools in their back pocket to use on the roads,” says Baillargeon.

One of the trainees in the course, Constable Destiny Pailey, says it has been so helpful to learn about all the different categories of drugs and symptoms.

“There are many symptoms that we can analyse to recognize what kind of substance a person is on while driving, aside from just alcohol or being impaired by drugs. There is a very big number of drugs that they can be impaired by and this will teach us how to recognize those symptoms,”says Pailey.

Baillargeon says there are three main tests that are conducted during a standard field sobriety test that have proven to be the most reliable and accurate for determining if someone is impaired. These tests include an eye test called the “Horizontal gaze nystagmus”, a walk and turn, and a one leg stand.

However, Baillargeon says an officer must first always have a reason to stop a vehicle, like a driving infraction.

“Once the vehicle is stopped, you approach the vehicle and you look for any signs or symptoms with usually your sensory perceptions to determine if the subject that you’re dealing with is impaired either by alcohol or drugs. If you feel that there is sufficient grounds to do a standard field sobriety test on that subject, you would get them out of the vehicle. Of course, you’re watching all their actions at that time… we would conduct a standard field sobriety test on that subject and if we feel that they’re impaired by alcohol, we would arrest them and bring them in,” says Baillargeon.

In the case of drivers impaired by drugs, Baillargeon says officers are allowed to arrest drivers on suspicion. He says the ministry introduced new sanctions last year that allows a standard field sobriety officer the authority to issue a three-day license suspension if a drug recognition expert is not available to do testing at the station.

Baillargeon says testing will be the same once marijuana is legalized, though the government has still not determined what legal limit it will impose for drivers operating motor-vehicles. He says for marijuana testing, there is a 12-step evaluation and a sample of urine, saliva, or blood is taken and sent to the Centre of Forensic Science.

“We’re of course educating these people on the heels of the new legislation being announced and we’re trying to bolster our numbers, in case that there is a further problem that we’re not quite anticipating… we are trying to make Chatham-Kent the safest community in Ontario,” says Baillargeon.