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Column

Drunken driving and sobering drug facts

Week 5 marks halfway point through Citizens Police Academy

Princeton Police Officer Dustin Schaill (left) and Princeton Police Chief Tom Kammerer (center) conduct a standardized DUI test on Amber Killian, while she wears drunk goggles designed to simulate drinking impairment.
Princeton Police Officer Dustin Schaill (left) and Princeton Police Chief Tom Kammerer (center) conduct a standardized DUI test on Amber Killian, while she wears drunk goggles designed to simulate drinking impairment.

My head is still spinning from the drunk goggles I got to try out Wednesday night during Princeton’s Citizens Police Academy. Not really, but I am spinning at the thought that the course is already halfway over. The time really is flying by.

This week, Week 5, was all about drunken driving and current drug trends.

Princeton Police Officer Dustin Schaill, who works the midnight shifts at the department, provided a brief presentation about the three standardized tests police officers give to people who are pulled over for suspected drunken driving.

Just like on the television show, “Live PD,” which my mother is a huge fan of so I’ve seen plenty of episodes to know, police officers conduct the horizontal gaze test with a light or tip of a pen to check for clues in the eyes. They also do the well-known “walk the line” test, and the one-legged, 30-second stand.

A neat fact Schaill shared is that DUI cases are on the decline. Why? A lot of it has to do with Ubers or Lyft, which are both apps on smartphones that people can use to find rides home. Also, people are becoming more aware of the high cost penalty that comes with a DUI. Princeton Police Chief Tom Kammerer said it’s a minimum cost of $5,000. Yikes!

Following the presentation, the class was split into two groups. One group got to try “walking the line” with the drunk goggles and attempted the DUI tests while wearing the goggles. Let’s just say, I did not witness a single person pass any of the tests. I did not even attempt them, because as soon as I put the drunk goggles on, I knew there was no way I was walking any kind of line with that kind of impaired vision. I think one woman in the class compared it to looking through a kaleidoscope, which I can agree to that statement.

Our group was then escorted to the police garage where we got to try driving a golf cart while wearing the drunk goggles. It sounds like a risky demonstration, but we were all safely supervised by Princeton Police Investigator Chris Erickson, so thank you to him.

I tried it out and while I did not crash into anything or require Erickson to have to quickly grab my wheel, I’ll admit my performance was pretty pathetic.

The second portion of Wednesday’s class got deep into the issues of current drug trends in our area. The facts of this presentation were quite sobering (no pun intended). The drug epidemic is alive and well in Princeton, and our officers are dealing with it on a daily basis. It’s a devastating issue. I’m not really sure how our officers go home at night and sleep soundly after dealing with the kind of drug problems they talked about on Wednesday.

Princeton Police Chief Tom Kammerer said he thinks a lot of residents are “blissfully ignorant” to just how bad the drug problem is here in our neighborhoods. Drugs are big contributors to issues like the crime rate and the low-income rates in Princeton, as you might guess.

Who is to blame for this problem? In my opinion, we can point a finger at the big pharmaceutical companies and medical doctors who created the opioid epidemic. No doubt about that.

What’s going to end this epidemic? Definitely not prison time for the people who have real addiction problems. Kammerer said punishing users with jail time only puts a pause on the problem. We need to look at the bigger picture when it comes to drug addiction and fund ways to treat this illness just like we’d treat any other kind of medical illness.

Note to readers: Goldie Rapp is a senior staff writer for the Bureau County Republican. She can be reached at grapp@bcrnews.com or follow her on Twitter @bcr_grapp.

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