- Friday, 31 August 2012
In 1967, the breathalyser was introduced throughout the land. Hitherto, if you were driving a vehicle on a road whilst under the influence of alcohol, you were pretty well certain to do so without falling foul of the law. A police officer was obliged to carry out certain observations at the location where he had stopped the vehicle, or was interviewing the driver immediately following an accident.
Should the matter arrive before a court and the accused hire a lawyer who was a specialist in such proceedings, there was every chance of him being found not guilty. The dreaded breathalyser, because it could detect alcohol on the breath, and obtain a reading which indicated the person providing the test was over the limit, changed everything.
Generally speaking, 2 pints of beer would put you over the top as it were, and further tests at the police station may confirm the offence. The kits arrived at the stations a week before the matter became law, and the inspectors, who had been attending a short course on the instruments, received boxes containing the dreaded devices.
Around one in the morning, I came in to the charge office and booked in for my supper break and the inspector called me over. 'Sergeant', he said. 'I have to explain this thing to you so that you can train the officers on your section', I protested that I had booked in for my break but he insisted and proceeded to demonstrate the device.
When he had it all connected up he told me to blow in to the bag, which I did, hoping that the half dozen pints of ale I had taken, whilst visiting a couple of inn keepers on my patch, would not show.
The yellow crystals in the glass tube turned a vivid green, and the inspector said, 'That's odd'. The sergeant, who was on desk duty, and was a great friend of mine, said that he had heard the breathalysers were from Germany, and other forces had discovered a lot of faults with them. I shot off to take my refreshments, and then left the station as quickly as possible.
When I came back in at seven in order to sign off, the inspector informed me that he got all the constables who came in, to blow in the bags. 'It turned out that every one of the damned bags was faulty. They all turned green,' he said. 'I've sent the lot back, with a report, It’s a good job we didn't use 'em on the public.' It taught me a lesson, and when we all got Panda cars a few weeks later, I decided that I would never drive one, and continued to walk everywhere.
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