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Off-Duty Police Officer Human Subjects Overview Pacific Institute
Off-Duty Police Officers are hired by PIRE as consultants to provide assistance with the National Roadside Survey. The survey sites are marked with two signs that say “Voluntary Survey.” Off-duty police officers assist with directing the safe flow of randomly selected vehicles into the survey site. They do not speak with subjects. A Survey Manager signals the police officer when an interviewer is available to conduct the next survey. The off-duty police officer then selects the next vehicle that can be safely waved into the survey site. To ensure unbiased selection of the first vehicle at each interview site, the third vehicle passing the site after initiation of the survey will be selected by the officer for the first interview.
The random selection process is vitally important. Without it, our data cannot be generalized to the whole population. A non-random sample makes our data worthless. There are, however, two exceptions to the random selection requirement: 1) We will NOT sample commercial vehicles at all; and 2) We will oversample motorcycles by selecting ALL motorcycle riders to participate.
The National Roadside Survey is research sponsored by two federal agencies (NIAAA and NHTSA), thus the Pacific Institute is bound by law to follow the Office of Human Research Protections, Ethical Principle, and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects. Consultants must complete a Human Subjects training module either on-line or review the training module binder and sign the training certificates before assisting with the surveys.
The most relevant features of the Human Subjects Protection Guideline on this project are as follows:
Subjects must understand that their participation is completely voluntary and anonymous and they may leave the site at any time. Upon contact with the subjects, the interviewer stresses three factors to the selected driver, namely they have committed no offense, are free to leave at any time, and that the stop was to request participation in an anonymous and voluntary survey. Any conversation with subjects by the police officer can be seen as coercive, thus the importance of not speaking to the subject. Police officers may say, “Please follow the directions of the Survey Manager,” when directing vehicles into the research site.
Subjects cannot be placed at risk of any type of harm as a result of participating in the survey, including arrest. However, as researchers, we cannot ethically let an obviously impaired driver drive away from the survey site. The interviewers will not know the subject’s BAC (the PBT reading is stored in the PBT for download later), but they are trained to identify the signs of intoxication. They have passive sensor devices that they activate twice for every participant to help make an assessment of impairment. An interviewer will signal a Survey Manager if they suspect a driver is impaired. The Survey Manager will make his/her own assessment and decide if the survey should continue and if the Impaired Driver Protocol should be implemented. This protocol calls for the Survey Manager to request a breath test with a PBT that displays the BAC and then offer these choices: 1) Let a sober, licensed passenger drive after breath testing with a PBT that displays the BAC; 2) Call for two friends to come to the site; one to drive the subject’s vehicle; 3) Offer to pay for a taxi or tow ride home, and making arrangements for the safe parking of subject’s vehicle if needed; 4) Offer to have a member of the survey team drive the vehicle and subjects home; 5) Pay for a hotel if the subject lives far from the survey site.
If the driver refuses all options, the subject is told that we cannot in good conscience let him/her drive and that we will have to let the police officers know that in our judgment, he/she is not fit to drive away. From vast past experience, this is usually sufficient to get the driver to cooperate and take one of the options. If the driver continues to refuse, it is only then when it is a matter of public safety that the police officers will be asked to assist. The officer will be asked to (1) repeat the safe ride options, and if that fails, (2) the officer will call an off-duty officer and warn that an apparently impaired driver has left our site and report the pertinent vehicle information. Prior to calling the on-duty police, the off-duty officer will inform the driver that he/she will ‘call it in’ if the driver leaves the site. Police are then alerted to the potential hazard and if the driver gives probable cause to an on-duty officer, then that driver will be pulled over and subject to a police intervention. Because the driver would have to give probable cause for a stop, there is no excess risk of arrest as a direct result of our calling. The risk of being pulled over and possibly arrested is a function of the driver’s behavior after leaving the site.