Officers train in Augusta on new breath alcohol testers

About 90 officers from across the state trained this week in Augusta for the new, advanced breath alcohol testers, which will replace current models Georgia police have used since the mid-1990s.

“We have recently decided to transition from the other system to the new one for sustainability purposes,” said Chris Tilson, the manager of the implied consent section of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Division of Forensic Sciences.

The Intoxilyzer 5000 has been used in Georgia since 1995, but the machine will be decommissioned Dec. 31, 2015 as agencies make the switch to the Intoxilyzer 9000.

Tilson said the current machine is still a good piece of equipment, but replacement parts are becoming an issue. After evaluating three options, Georgia Bureau of Investigation officials chose the 9000-model, which had the highest composite test score.

The three-year gap between the initial decision and systems’ decommissioning allows the 8,500 Georgia officers to obtain updated permits and gives departments time to purchase the equipment – which costs about $8,000each.

At this point, the GBI is on schedule to complete training before the end of 2015. Tilson said he hopes to see another 3,000 officers trained in the next 12 months.

About 40 of the 90 officers who trained with the new system during the four-hour class on Monday and Tuesday were Richmond County officers.

Tilson, who taught the class, said most officers breeze through the course.

“All the major functions are the same,” he said. “It’s just getting through the screens, reading the reports and (understanding) the error messages.”

Other changes include a touchscreen, a faster computer with the ability to store more information and test results, and a feature that allows officers to assess how well the person is providing a breath sample. Tilson said the new systems have not been installed yet, but should begin appearing in October.

Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Lewis Blanchard said the county has used grant money to help purchase three Intoxilyzer 9000s. The department hopes to have them in use by early 2014. They will replace existing machines at the 401 Walton Way booking area, the Phinizy Road jail and in the DUI van.

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