Officers from across SC, including York, Florence and Simpsonville, joined officers from local departments in the day-long training funded by a federal grant to the Cherokee County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. The course included classroom and interactive training, as well as a mock DUI checkpoint.
Michelle Nienhius, a prevention consultant with the state alcohol and drug abuse commission, told officers that they need to be aware of new products and online, social marketing schemes that promote heavy drinking.
In the past, officers and alcohol prevention experts classified alcohol beverages into beer, wine and liquor. In the last decade, manufacturers have added into the mix alcopops — flavored alcoholic drinks that now often mix energy drinks and alcohol. These newer types of beverage can cause dehydration and cardiovascular problems, Nienhius told the officers during the training.
“Now, instead of having a can of beer, a shot of liquor or a glass of wine, you might have 32 ounces of High Gravity Four Loko with 11 percent alcohol per volume,” Nienhius said. “So, a driver suspected of DUI might tell you they've had the proverbial two drinks, but two drinks of what? One Four Loko is the equivalent to eight beers, and you can buy them fairly cheaply.”
Neinhius displayed various new beverages, some that haven't reached South Carolina yet, such as Firestarter Vodka that comes in a metal can shaped like a fire extinguisher and Hello Kitty vodka. Nienhius's display included Reef sandals with a built-in flask that holds three ounces per foot, and another pair that come with a bottle opener for a “party on-the-go.”
Neinhius said there are “wine rack” bras that store concealed alcohol in a padded bra, and some shorts now come with pockets for flasks.
Nienhius said some progress has been made to regulate energy drinks that include alcohol. In 2008, manufactures took caffeine out of energy drinks. Some cities in other states, she said, also are prohibiting chilled alcohol to be served in convenience stores in an attempt to curb drinking and driving (DUI).
City of Gaffney Officer Dwayne Fowler said the training was informative and introduced him to products that are manufactured to appear as energy drinks.
“It was a good way to present a lot of good information, especially the new products that we haven't seen yet,” Fowler said. “It's good to find out more about them before we start dealing with them.”
Under the grant, the Cherokee County Action for Safer Tomorrow — a coalition of community members — was formed to educate the public on the dangers of underage and excessive drinking and to help equip officers with tools they need for DUI enforcement, said Chrissy Little of the Cherokee County alcohol and drug abuse commission.
The five-year grant, administered by several federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, gives $110,000 annually for tools and training. For example, the grant paid for cameras and a server so that the city of Gaffney can transition from VHS tapes to digital images, and the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office received flashlights that can detect alcohol.
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Source: GoUpstate.com, Officers Trained on Trends Promoting and Hiding Alcohol Use