Opinion

KPD's response to faulty breathalyzer admirable

Machines don't always get it right.

Sometimes they malfunction and cause all kinds of problems, and that's when it helps to have human beings around with some common sense.

The situation in Kennewick regarding the faulty breathalyzer certainly must have been traumatic for the falsely accused man, but it could have been much worse.

At least police procedures require results from field tests to be confirmed by a calibrated machine under more controlled circumstances. That formality saved the unfortunate driver from some time behind bars.

The false reading shouldn't have happened in the first place, but we're impressed with the Kennewick Police Department's response to the mistake.

In some communities, such police errors aren't handled with the same candor.

However, the Kennewick police have a reputation for typically trying to do the right thing and this situation is another example.

The incident started a little over a week ago, when Ron Striver of Kennewick was pulled over for reportedly running a red light that he said was yellow.

The officer smelled alcohol on his breath and asked him if he had been drinking. Striver reportedly said he had a beer with lunch a couple of hours earlier.

The officer then had Striver blow into a breathalyzer machine and it registered 0.15 percent, which is nearly double the legal limit of 0.08.

But Striver then passed all the field sobriety tests he was asked to perform. When he blew into the breathalyzer a second time, the same 0.15 result registered again.

He was then put in handcuffs and his vehicle was impounded. Striver also was cited for child endangerment because his two daughters, ages 10 and 12, were with him.

Striver was able use the calibrated breathalyzer at Columbia Park, where the Washington State Patrol was testing for DUIs in conjuction with the Water Follies, saving him a trip to jail.

Striver's test there came up 0.00 and his tickets were torn up. Kennewick Police Sgt. Ken Lattin said Striver will be reimbursed for the $216 he had to pay to retrieve his towed vehicle, and the faulty breathalyzer has been taken out of service.

As it turned out, Striver had smoked a cigarette just before blowing into the machine, and that could have been the cause of the faulty readings.

Officers are supposed to wait 15 minutes before giving the test because drinking, eating or smoking just before blowing into a breathalyzer can alter the readings.

The reserve officer didn't follow the 15-minute rule, but at least he followed procedures and double-checked the results with another machine.

Striver certainly went through an ordeal, but it seems the Kennewick Police Department did what it could to set things right -- admitting fault and putting a plan in place to prevent officers from making similar mistakes in the future.

And that's refreshing.

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