By Kenneth H. Beck, Professor, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of Maryland; and Thomas J. Gianni, Acting Chief, Maryland Highway Safety Office
pproximately 35 percent of the drivers killed in Maryland traffic crashes in 2010 died with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.1 In 2010, there were about 1.4 million arrests for alcohol-impaired driving in the United States.2 According to Maryland’s Crash Outcome Data Evaluation Data System, in Maryland nearly 22,000 drivers each year are issued citations for driving while alcohol impaired.3 Despite the large number of alcohol-impaired driving arrests made, a significant percentage of them do not result in convictions. The reasons why are varied and include judicial prerogative, plea bargaining to an offense with less serious consequences, and failure to successfully prosecute the alcohol-impaired driving offender in court. Although police officers report making a significant number of alcohol-impaired driving arrests, few officers actually appear in court, and those who do may not do so regularly. At times, the actual courtroom experience can be unsettling. An arresting officer may be questioned by a defense attorney concerning the nature of the evidence used to make the alcohol-impaired driving stop as well as about the procedures used in obtaining evidence to support the arrest.
A growing belief exists that the alcohol-impaired driving problem has not improved much in the last decade, at least when compared to the significant improvements that have occurred since the late 1970s and early 1980s. Undoubtedly, current economic factors, as well as a shift in emphasis to homeland security issues, have diverted resources away from traffic safety in general and alcohol-impaired driving in particular. However, it should be noted that criminals, even terrorists, use the highway system.4 Timothy J. McVeigh was apprehended during a traffic stop just 90 minutes after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.5 Thus, there is a need to reenergize efforts to combat alcohol-impaired driving and prioritize these efforts within the law enforcement community.
Background: The Purpose of the Institute
The University of Maryland Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Institute (formally known as the Institute for Advanced Law Enforcement Studies) is in its eighth year of operation. It began as a series of discussions between the Maryland Highway Safety Office and the University of Maryland and grew out of the observation that there was a need to build a high-quality, academic course for law enforcement agents who were or who wanted to be leaders in the area of alcohol-impaired driving enforcement. As such, it was felt that additional training was needed for those officers who wanted to increase their ability to make high-quality alcohol-impaired driving arrests (that is, ones that would result in convictions), as well as for those who wanted to build their résumés for future promotions in rank. In addition, it was recognized that a certain culture may exist where some patrol officers may be reluctant to arrest alcohol-impaired drivers, especially those who are at the borderline level, given the amount of work surrounding an alcohol-impaired driving arrest, the perceived aggravation in court, and their own lack of training and confidence in handling a more technical case.
A series of in-depth discussions and interviews were conducted with potential students and with content experts as to the nature and the sequencing of the instructional units that would comprise the course. In the end, it was decided that the curriculum would be a 40-hour course taught at a college level by university faculty and external experts. At its onset, the training was intended to be especially rigorous and require successful completion of an objective examination. The underlying notion was that students who successfully complete the course would have a real sense of accomplishment that would be meaningful to them and help promote the next generation of alcohol-impaired driving experts. In addition, as the DUI Institute becomes better known in the judicial system, there will be tangible benefits of listing the training as one of the credentials an officer can cite when testifying in court.
The Course Content
Topics covered include the following:
- The physiology of alcohol and its effects on the human body
- Historical perspectives on drinking
- The assessment and the treatment of alcohol-impaired driving offenders
- The status and the effectiveness of alcohol impaired driving prevention approaches
- Addiction: Diagnosis, referral, treatment, and recovery
- DUI and drug courts
- Historical perspectives on police management
- Organizational behavior and the law enforcement community
- Trial tips for alcohol-impaired driving cases
- Courtroom testimony and anticipating the defense
- Advanced standard field sobriety test (SFST) updates with practical application workshops
- Technologies used in substance abuse management
- Highway safety systems
The course also includes a module titled “Catch ‘Em If You Can.” This workshop was originally developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the law enforcement community. Over the years, it was adapted and further developed by the Maryland Highway Safety Office. This module focuses on the attitudes that might prevent an officer from making an alcohol-impaired driving arrest (for example, the driver is a friend of the officer, is a local celebrity, has only a few miles to go before reaching home, is only slightly over the limit) and attempts to redirect officers’ motivations by teaching them to focus on the potential consequences of not doing so (for example, an innocent person is killed or injured).
Impact and Evaluation of the Course
This weeklong course has been held every summer for eight years, and more than 400 students have successfully completed it. Feedback from students, including several who have come from out of state, has generally been quite favorable. Several have given unsolicited testimonials that the course has provided them with valuable skills and increased their motivation to make alcohol-impaired driving arrests. There also is anecdotal evidence that Maryland judges are becoming more aware and more impressed with this training.
In an effort to apply adult learning concepts of building on instructional modules from day to day, part of the training involves a “wet” workshop where volunteer drinkers are dosed to various BACs. While this is occurring, students are given advanced training on SFST and then perform an SFST assessment on the drinkers and complete police reports that will be used as evidence in a mock court. Defense and prosecuting attorneys use these reports when they cross-examine the students while providing tips for better case preparation and report writing. Increasing skills and confidence during the courtroom testimony is one of the main expectations students have for this course. By and large, the instructional components that consistently get high praise are the sessions that are presented on courtroom testimony and the mock court experience.
Follow-up surveys, conducted with the last two classes, reveal that students found the training extremely useful and that they have put into practice many of the concepts that were covered. They also were more likely to have provided advice or information on alcohol-impaired driving to others in their group or network. Most telling of all was that many reported making more alcohol-impaired driving arrests since completing the training and felt more confident in preparing arrest reports and testifying in court.
It is important to stress that the underlying concept of this institute is not simply to provide another in-service training experience for police officers. Rather, it is designed to have officers grasp the big picture of alcohol-impaired driving enforcement including physiological, historical, social, and enforcement and judicial perspectives. It is continually stressed that the problem of alcohol-impaired driving, as well as the scope of this training, needs to be viewed by the students in a comprehensive format. It is likely that the future roles and expectations for the law enforcement community in relation to traffic safety will be different from those of today. Changes in technology, the composition of our society, and myriad other factors will no doubt usher in the next era of policing. Thus, it is vitally important that the next generation of law enforcement leaders be given as broad and as thorough training as possible in addressing alcohol-impaired driving. The University of Maryland DUI Institute represents one attempt in this direction. For more information about the institute, visit http://www.oes.umd.edu/index.php?slab=dui (accessed March 5, 2012). ■
1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities: Maryland , U.S. and Best State,” table, Traffic Safety Facts Maryland 2006-2010, http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/STSI/24_MD/2010/24_MD_2010.htm (accessed March 5, 2012)
2U.S. Department of Justice,Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 2010, Uniform Crime Reports, table 29, (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2010), http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl29.xls (accessed March 5, 2012).
3Martin O’Malley et al., Crime in Maryland: 2010 Uniform Crime Report, July 20, 2011, http://www.goccp.maryland.gov/msac/documents/2010_Crime_in_Maryland.pdf (accessed March 26, 2012).
4Earl M. Sweeney, “Traffic Enforcement Faces Interesting Times,” Highway Safety Initiatives, The Police Chief 78 (June 2011): 90, www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=2407&issue_id=62011 (accessed March 5, 2012).
5Staff and wire reports, “The Oklahoma City Bombing,” Library Factfiles, Indianapolis Star, April 9, 2004, www2.indystar.com/library/factfiles/crime/national/1995/oklahoma_city_bombing/ok.html (accessed March 26, 2012).
Please cite as:
Kenneth H. Beck and Thomas J. Gianni, "Training the Future Leaders in Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Enforcement: The University of Maryland’s DUI Institute," Highway Safety Initiatives, The Police Chief 79 (May 2012): 68–69.