Students stumbling home after a night of partying could be stopped and asked to take a breathalyzer test by University Police officers starting as early as March.
The University has also acquired identification scanners to help crack down on underage drinking and identify intoxicated students who need medical attention, UPD Chief Dolores Stafford said.
Metropolitan Police officials began teaching UPD officers last semester how to use breathalyzers and perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, a procedure that evaluates motor skills to determine whether someone has been drinking.
“UPD often comes across intoxicated students, and we do our best to judge if their health or safety is at risk,” Stafford wrote in an e-mail Monday. “In the past those judgments have been strictly subjective.”
“This new … equipment will allow us to more accurately judge if the intoxicated person needs to be evaluated by medical professionals,” she added.
The University Club also received a scanner in the last couple of months that bartenders will soon use to spot fraudulent IDs, Stafford said.
If students refuse to take a breathalyzer, officers would then use “other subjective measures” to determine if the person’s health is at risk, Stafford said. Breathalyzers use a chemical reaction to measure a person’s blood alcohol level.
Some students said the ability to refuse a breathalyzer undermines the purpose it serves.
Senior Josh Levine called the investment “a waste of money” because students would most likely refuse a test.
“If you are drunk enough to accept a breathalyzer, then you deserve (the punishment),” he said.
Senior Michelle Singler said the presence of breathalyzers on campus could be beneficial. During her freshman year, Singler said she received an alcohol violation even though she had not been drinking.
“Give us a breathalyzer. I hadn’t been drinking,” she said. “In that situation it would have been good.”
Stafford said UPD usually does an “outstanding” job deciding whether students are intoxicated and need medical attention. She said the breathalyzers would only make their assessments more accurate.
Stafford said UPD would use ID scanners at campus events where alcohol is served such as Oktoberfest, registered Greek-letter organization parties and “happy hour” at the University Club.
Interfraternity Council President Ben Block said fraternities ensure the safety of those who attend the events by checking students’ IDs.
Block added that he hopes the use of scanners and breathalyzers does not negatively impact Greek-letter events.
“If it’s focused on the Greek community, I’m sorry that the University feels they need a more reliable way to check IDs,” he said. “Greeks aren’t the only ones that hold these kinds of functions. ”
Students above the age of 21 will not be affected by the use of ID scanners, said Stafford, who added that the breathalyzers are meant to ensure the safety of all students regardless of age.
“UPD officers come upon students on the street who can’t walk on their own … As University officials, we have a responsibility to assess those situations and to get people the appropriate medical attention,” she said.
Student Association President Kris Hart said he does not have a problem with UPD’s new gear “as long as they use them by normal law enforcement standards.”
“An adult who looks intoxicated, has a fake ID, they can deal with it there,” Hart said. “If they start breaking into kids’ rooms to take their ID and scan them, then there’s a problem.”
Freshman Sara Kamin said she sees the new equipment as another “scare tactic” that will not deter underage drinking.
“I think they’re making larger efforts to decrease alcohol consumption on campus, but no matter what, kids will still find ways around it,” she said.
Stafford requested the equipment last year after discussing alcohol-related issues with University administrators. The purchase of breathalyzers and scanners was funded by a grant from the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education and money from UPD’s operational budget.
Stafford declined to state the cost of the devices.
-Jennifer Nedeau contributed to this report.