Every Washington State Patrol Cadet goes through 20 weeks of in-class and practical instruction before they hit the road for their coaching trip, and then ultimately become a commissioned trooper.  Our latest cadets took what they learned in the classroom and applied it in the wet lab.

Our cadets have spent hours learning about impairment and standardized field sobriety tests (SFST).  In the classroom, they practice SFSTs on each other, but don’t get to see impairment indicators since everyone is sober.  The goal of the wet lab is to take the lessons learned in the classroom and apply them in a practical situation. 

During the wet lab, volunteers from the community are in a controlled environment and provided with dosed amounts of alcohol to get them to a target breath alcohol concentration (BAC).  Once the volunteers reach a certain BAC, the cadets come into the wet lab environment and perform SFSTs on the volunteer drinkers.  To simulate real interactions, the cadets test different volunteers, as each volunteer has a different BAC and will show different impairment indicators.  Halfway through the experience, the lights are turned off so the cadets can practice SFSTs in a “night” setting.  With classmates by their side and experienced officers watching, the cadets make an arrest determination based on their observations and the clues they see during the process.

After the wet lab, the cadets and their instructors debrief.  Meanwhile, to help sober up, the volunteers drink water and eat food.  Before our volunteer drinkers can leave, they are required to be below a 0.03 BAC, have a designated driver pick them up, and must agree to not drive for at least four hours after they’ve left the event.

The wet lab is one of many training experiences for our cadets.  The cadets will continue to have in-class instruction, tests, and mock scenarios before they’re sent on their 10-week coaching trip.  They clock over 1,000 hours of training before they’re commissioned, and receive additional training multiple times a year thereafter.

Listen to what some of our cadets had to say about the experience:

Here are photos from the wet lab: