Friday, February 18, 2011

To the batcave, Robin

Stop me if you've heard this one before - the Houston Police Department, along with the Harris County DA's Office and MADD announced a new initiative aimed at combating that bogeyman of bogeyman - drunk driving.
The Houston Police Department's latest state-of-the-art weapon to combat drunk driving.

This time the state's weapon of choice is the BATmobile. The breath alcohol testing vehicle contains an intoxiliar machine so that the police can offer breath tests to motorists arrested for DWI on the spot. Note that I didn't say motorists suspected of driving while intoxicated. That's because in Texas, in order for a breath test to be admissible, the motorist must be under arrest at the time the officer requests a breath sample.

The breath test machine is, if you listen to prosecutors and officers, a scientific "instrument" designed to detect the alcohol concentration in someone's blood -- based on how much alcohol is in their breath. Like many sci-fi shows, you have to suspend reality to understand how this modern day relic of the alchemists works.

I don't know too many scientific instruments that labs keep in rooms such as the intox video rooms at HPD. I've always thought scientific instruments should be kept in pristine labs that are kept clean of all contaminants so that the measurements taken are as accurate as possible. But maybe that's just me.

These breath test machines are maintained by the Knights Templar of the police state -- DPS licensed technical supervisors who are supposed to perform regular maintenance on the machines and testify in court that everything is hunky-dory with the machine. But how much testing is performed to determine whether moving the machine from location to location affects its ability to do whatever the hell it's supposed to do? How much testing is performed to determine if the communications systems in the BATmobiles interferes with the machine's innards? How much testing is performed to determine if the machines are affected by the ambient air both inside the van and outside in the real world? More importantly, has the (pseudo)scientific director of the DPS approved this new initiative?

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