Residents drink on Avon police’s tab | VailDaily.com
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Residents drink on Avon police’s tab

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado
Janine Kozak/Special to the DailyA pen is held above Adam Roth's head to train police how to better recognize signs of alcohol use. If a person's eyes jerk up and down during the test, called "vertical nystagmus," a person has been drinking or using PCP, animal tranquilizers or other drugs.
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AVON, Colorado ” Joe Histed counted slowly as he held up his leg, shaking subtly. Police officers watched and took notes.

After seven drinks in a couple hours, Histed’s blood alcohol content was .114 . A couple hours later he had a .070. That means Histed was a “little tipsy,” he said.

“It doesn’t take much,” he said. “It’s kind of shocking.”

Histed should have been ticketed for driving under the influence of alcohol ” .08 and up ” at first. He also should have been ticketed for driving while ability impaired ” the limit is .05 and up. Except he wasn’t drinking and driving.

Instead, he and other residents got drunk on the Avon Police Department’s tab Monday afternoon at the Eagle River Fire Protection District station in Avon.

Avon police provided the beer, wine and hard liquor to residents. In return, residents let police officers use them for their training to become “drug recognition experts.” Experts are taught to spot signs that a person is under the influence of alcohol, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, PCP, marijuana and other drugs.

The training in Avon started Monday and will go until May 8. It will help police better determine whether a driver has had too much to drink, said trooper and course manager J.J. Wolff of the Colorado State Patrol.

Twenty-four officers from around Colorado participated, six of whom worked for agencies in Eagle County.

“For there to be six from the Eagle County area is really going to benefit impaired driving enforcement,” Wolff said.

Officers did roadside sobriety tests on residents, who tried to walk a straight line and lift their legs up while counting slowly. Some residents swayed and their feet shook as they did those tests.

After five beers, Eagle resident Mike Kerst was one of those people. He doesn’t drink and drive ever, even after one beer, he said. He wanted to help police get better at busting drunken drivers on Eagle County roads, he said.

Kerst, deputy coroner for Eagle County, has seen people die in alcohol-related crashes in the past.

“That’s the main purpose of this ” help these guys be more proficient in their job so I don’t have to do my job,” Kerst said.

Hagen Kuhl, an Eagle County sheriff’s deputy, said the training helped him refresh his skills in spotting drunken drivers.

Doing the sobriety tests properly is important because you can’t arrest someone just because a portable breathalyzer says they’ve had too much to drink, he said. Along with the breathalyzer, the tests are done to help police decide whether to arrest someone, he said.

Kuhl’s also looking forward to becoming a drug recognition expert.

“It gives me a level of expertise that isn’t common knowledge,” he said.

Jenny Klingmueller, an Eagle River firefighter, drank a bottle of white merlot in about two hours. Her blood alcohol content was .088 at the beginning of the training and was .064 by the end.

She would never drink a bottle of wine and drive anyway, she said.

“It reinforced what I already knew,” she said.

Histed wanted to know what legally drunk felt like, he said.

“You never know unless you get pulled over,” said Histed, who planned on getting a ride home from Avon police.

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or slynn@vaildaily.com.


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