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Officers learn ropes on new DUI-testing device

Area law enforcement agencies soon will have new equipment toaid in their battle against drunk driving.

This week, state and local officers from agencies within theoperating area of the Mississippi Highway Patrol’s Troop M havebeen receiving training and certification on the new Intoxilyzer8000 at the Multi-Use Facility. Officers have been participatingdaily in the eight-hour course.

The new machine, used to test a driver’s blood-alcohol level,will replace the Intoxilyzer 5000 as part of a routine equipmentupgrade, said instructor Staff Sgt. Roger Blackmon. He said it ismore “officer friendly.”

“It’s got a lot of technological advances,” Blackmon said. “It’scapable of printing out records and forms that used to have to befilled out by hand.”

Brookhaven Police Lt. Joe Portrey, one of Thursday’sparticipants, said that aspect should lead to increased legibilityand accuracy of the forms.

“It takes care of all the paperwork,” Portrey said. “It takescare of that work and fills out everything.”

Blackmon said the new machines are also capable of being linkedwith a mainframe computer in Jackson. That capability will enhancedata storage for district-to-district comparisons.

“It can be done with a push of a button rather than siftingthrough mounds of paperwork,” Blackmon said.

Approximately 6,0000 officers statewide who will use the machinemust pass a test and be certified through the Department of PublicSafety. Participating agencies in this week’s training include theDepartment of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks, the Natchez Trace parkrangers and sheriff’s and police departments in the nine-countyregion.

While training is this week, Blackmon said there anapproximately 90-day window before the new machines will be in thefield.

“There will be some in place before the Fourth of July,”Blackmon said. “The entire Brookhaven district should be in placebefore Labor Day.”

Each machine costs approximately $9,000, Blackmon said. Theequipment is furnished by DPS.

Allocation of machines to counties is based on usage andpopulation. Blackmon said the only areas that have two machines arePike County and McComb and Adams County and Natchez.

The Brookhaven Police Department and the Lincoln CountySheriff’s Department use a machine based in the Lincoln CountyJail.

The Brookhaven MHP district is the next-to-last district toreceive the training. Blackmon said the New Albany MHP districtwill be next.

“Hopefully, they’ll all be in the field across the state beforeLabor Day,” Blackmon said.

Portrey said Mississippi is the first state in the nation toimplement the new Intoxilyzer 8000.

“I think that’s pretty good,” he said.

While training on the new equipment has been the primary goal ofthe course, Portrey said it has also helped to re-emphasize thedangers and effects of drunken driving.

“It’s made like a refresher course as well as an instructioncourse,” Portrey said.