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Alcohol breath analyzers go green in Ripon
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Officers get “POS” readout on their new alcohol testing unit placed in a cup of Mist soda along with a half cap of vodka. There are 18 such units used to test for alcohol – one for each patrol car on the streets. - photo by GLENN KAHL
RIPON - Ripon Police are going green – green with new biodegradable straws to be used with 18 new hand-held preliminary alcohol testing units – one for each patrol car.

The $15,000 cost for the Lifeloc FC10 Alcohol Testers was funded by a grant through the state Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).

The straws – also known as mouth pieces – used by suspected drunken drivers were previously plastic creating more of a problem with their disposal.

The testing units are also being used for educating youth in the school system as well as at parties where police are called in to check on underage drinking.  In that scenario officers can demonstrate how little alcohol it takes to make a serious reading on the unit.

They will also used for demonstrations by the school resource officers.

One demonstration uses just a half cap of vodka added to a paper cup filled with Mist soda.  In a test this week the Lifeloc unit immediately scored a “positive” reaction to the alcohol content.  

The Ripon department  is the first police agency in the nation to use the biodegradable straws, according to traffic officer Stephen Meece.

“It’s the little things we do to reduce the amount of refuse in the landfills,” Meece said.  Ripon officers have a recycle bin in their parking area where they drop their empty soda cans and bottles.

Meece said he drinks diet soda for cause – it doesn’t leave your fingers sticky.

The hand-held units cost  $750 each while the more complete testing kits,  complete with printer readouts,  mounted in carrying cases were some $1,200 each.

Traffic Sgt. Richard Kalebjian said that bars and restaurants operating within the city that serve alcohol have been very cooperative with the police effort to counter drinking and driving.  He added that many of the businesses have been hiring cabs to take their patrons home as well as having family members doing personal shuttling of those who have had too much to drink.

The Ripon department has been executing saturation patrols Friday and Saturday nights with four to five cars out each night looking for drivers who are under the influence.  Three reserve police officers have also been taking part in the effort.

Meece said when the Ripon department got the initial two units all the officers went through training to use the new equipment.  

He said when Chief Richard Bull came out of the training    he declared he wanted more units.  

“The machine is so good – it is so compact, and it has a good user interface on it,” Meece said. “You can’t go wrong with it.”

The officer added that the device is only for preliminary testing.  They are still using an advanced unit through Department of Justice for evidentiary testing.