Local police departments are working together to monitor Driving Under the Influence

Date: October 31, 2018


If you’re thankful you’ve never been stopped and arrested for a DUI, you may not want to experience what that’s like even in simulation. But on Monday night, Centre County residents who are participating in the Citizens Police Academy got the opportunity to wear a pair of drunk driving goggles. “Arrested” by Patton Township Police Officer Brian Shaffer, they tried but failed to follow his instructions to walk a straight line and balance on one foot.

Shaffer and his co-instructor, Ferguson Township Police Sergeant Ryan Hendrick, said DUI arrests by the
Centre County Drug and Alcohol Task Force have decreased significantly because people who are drinking are using Uber and Lyft ride services to get home, especially on football weekends. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of DUI arrests by the task force has dropped from 65 to 40. 

Sergeant Hendrick coordinates the task force, which is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through PennDOT. He applies for grants to sustain it each year. Between 2018 and 2020, the task force is operating under a $40,000 grant – its lowest ever, compared to a grant of $53,400 when it was established in 2007, and a whopping $77,410 in 2009-10. That’s actually good news; because DUI arrests have dropped, the task force now needs fewer resources to operate. 

What’s more, all of Centre County’s police departments are working together and relying on each other for support. For a community of this size, that kind of relationship among police departments is rare as well as beneficial to residents of Ferguson Township and its neighboring municipalities. 

Officer Shaffer is the go-to person for local arresting officers who need assistance assessing impairment
in motorists. Shaffer is a certified Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) – trained to identify people whose driving
is impaired by drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol. DRE is a 12-step scientific process that is critical
to the expert testimony in criminal trials.

The DRE interviews the arresting officer and examines the suspect for signs and symptoms of being impaired, such as:

• the odor of an alcoholic beverage on the breath
• blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
• visible signs reflected in the suspect’s eyes, attention span, and mental state.

The DRE will also check vital signs including the pulse and request blood, urine and/or saliva samples for a toxicology lab analysis. 

The Centre County Drug and Alcohol Task Force will continue its efforts to monitor Driving Under the Influence through checkpoints, roving patrols, awareness, and prevention. Its members include:

Ferguson Township Police
Patton Township Police
Spring Township Police
Bellefonte Borough Police
State College Borough Police
Penn State University Police
Centre County Sheriff’s Office
Centre County DA’s Office
Centre County 911 Center
Mount Nittany Medical Center
PA DUI Association
Local businesses

For more information about the task force and its activities, contact Sergeant Ryan Hendrick at rhendrick@twp.ferguson.pa.us