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Officer competency in the Texas Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Program: a quantitative study
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Many law enforcement officers (LEOs) have successfully completed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) course to enhance their ability to detect impaired drivers. However, in recent years there has been an increase in the number of reported SFST trained LEOs (SFST practitioners) administering the SFSTs incorrectly and an increased number of successful defense challenges to the admissibility of the SFSTs by SFST practitioners. To help determine the extent of which the Texas SFST program may be vulnerable and to measure the long-term retention of the SFST training, this study was initiated to assess officer competency levels in the Texas SFST program. The following research questions will be answered: 1) What is the competency level of SFST trained officers in Texas to correctly administer and score the SFST battery?; 2) Is there a relationship between the time of initial or refresher SFST training and officer competency level?; and 3) Is there a relationship between the frequency of SFST use and officer competency level? While the amount of literature regarding the validity and reliability of the SFSTs to determine impairment was immense, an exhaustive search of the literature could not locate any post-SFST training evaluation of a SFST practitioner's competency to correctly administer and score the SFSTs. To answer the research questions of this study, randomly selected Texas SFST practitioners completed a SFST Competency Assessment, which evaluated their ability to correctly administer and score the SFSTs. The results indicated there is a significant officer competency problem in the Texas SFST program. Administering the SFSTs more than ten times a month, obtaining proficiency certification, or successfully completing a SFST Update (refresher) course was found to increase SFST practitioner administration competency levels. Nothing examined in this study was found to increase SFST practitioner scoring competency levels. In conclusion, Texas SFST practitioners cannot administer and score the SFSTs according to the exact specifications of the NHTSA SFST curriculum. It is recommended that the design of the current SFST curriculum be reevaluated, proficiency certification be strongly encouraged, and periodic SFST Update training be mandated.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 82-86).
Issued also on microfiche from Lange Micrographics.
Merkley, Rodney Joseph (2002). Officer competency in the Texas Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Program: a quantitative study. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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