Guided by one of the county’s leading DUI and drug recognition experts, Officer Mike Piacenza, a 11-year veteran of the Pinellas Park police Department, led Citizen’s Police Academy students through a comprehensive presentation of investigating driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The Pinellas Park Police Department leads all other the Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies in the number of DUI and DRE experts underlining the department’s focus on reducing the number of deaths, injuries and accidents caused by impaired drivers. The department’s strong commitment to reducing DUI incidents is re-enforced by a highly trained staff of 6 DUI and drug recognition experts who are qualified after a two-week DRE School followed by numerous evaluations and written tests.
While Officer Piacenza is assigned to the department’s Traffic Enforcement Division, he serves as technical and tactical support for the department’s SWAT Team, a negotiator traffic homicide investigator and occasionally is found testifying as an expert witness in court on unrelated DUI cases due to his extensive experience and knowledge.
Two of the four hand-out materials were actual forms used by officers when investigating suspects following a DUI traffic stop; the Standardized Field Sobriety Evaluation as well as the Implied Consent Form used to solicit submission from suspects for a series of field sobriety tests that include breath, blood and urine tests. An additional hand-out of the Florida Drug Category Matrix identified in detail each drug by type, name, indicators and effects. Officer Piacenza further outlined the penalties for refusing to submit to tests in addition to the resulting fines and penalties for suspects found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In keeping with the department’s Citizen’s Academy educational strategy to better illustrate the information presented in the classroom, students witnessed a staged demonstration by Officer Piacenza and police volunteers of a DUI traffic stop scenario and subsequent field sobriety test followed by more a comprehensive investigation in the department’s DUI Center employing the use of a breathalyzer and other visual testing procedures. Academy participants found week six to be especially informative and interesting with a better understanding of the process and formula for probable cause used by police for a traffic stop, field sobriety tests and a subsequent arrest.