As community service goes, the gig sounded easy enough: Drink enough beer to get buzzed.
That's exactly what Hancock County Sheriff's Lt. Bridget Foy asked recently when she put out a call on Facebook for volunteers to serve as test subjects for police recruits learning how to deal with drunks.
Since 1999, Foy has been the instructor for an annual seminar in field-sobriety testing.
"Recruits need to know what they're doing before they pull over their first impaired driver," Foy said. "For the first few years (of teaching the seminar), I used videos. But the hands-on experience is so much better."
Police used a group of volunteer drinkers to help teach recruits the basics of field sobriety tests. This training occurred in Fortville, Indiana. (Bill McCleery/The Star)
Foy's class also includes recruits from police agencies across the county — Fortville, Greenfield, McCordsville, New Palestine and Shirley.
In a recent class, 10 volunteers started boozing it up about 2 p.m. at the Fortville Police Department. Instructors monitored the drinkers, performing breathalyzer tests every so often to make sure there was no over consumption.
"I tell the people they need to get to a point where they're very buzzed," Foy said. "If they get very drunk, they're no use to me, and they're no use to the trainees or the class. "
After a couple hours drinking, the tipsy volunteers filed out to a large garage area of the Fortville Municpal Building to face the new police recruits. There, they complied with orders to follow a moving object with their eyes and walk in a straight line — or at least make attempts.
J.R. Corman, a 2010 New Palestine High School graduate, struggled to keep his balance as he walked.
"New Palestine is going to be so proud," Corman said, slightly slurring his words. "Last time I was in the newspaper, I was going to state in wrestling. So I'm glad I'm getting to do this. If you put this in the newspaper, my coach is going to be pretty (ticked) off. He'll be like, what a (freaking) idiot. I can't wait."
One police recruit stifled laughter as he watched drinkers struggle to appear composed and coordinated.
"Today it's entertaining," said Dillon Silver. "But out there on the streets it'll be different. They won't be too happy to see us and be dealing with us."
Silver is a Hancock County dispatcher hoping to move to road patrol. He also works as a reserve officer for the New Palestine Police Department.
In 2012, 158 people died and 2,073 people were injured in Indiana in alcohol-related crashes, according to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
Foy said she never loses sight of the seriousness of the mission. As night-shift supervisor, she said, she sees the disastrous results of impaired driving all too often.
"I'll never forget a couple years ago, there was a young mother in her early 20s who was intoxicated and she was driving southbound on Mt. Comfort Road," Foy said. "She went across the center line and ran head-on into someone, and I pulled up on the scene and got to her just as she was taking her last breath. She was trapped in her vehicle and we couldn't get her out (until after she died). It was sad because I knew she had a kid from seeing the child seat in the back."
There was no child in the car, she said. Still, somewhere there was a child who would grow up without a mother.
"That's the reason why we do this."
Call Star reporter Bill McCleery at (317) 444-6083. Follow him on Twitter: @BillMcCleery01.