Snap judgements and breast tests

People affected by alcohol play a huge part in any police officer’s working life.  After spending over two decades working in South Auckland I had literally seen it all when it came to alcohol affected people. 

 I grew up in police working on the ‘beat’ at the Wharf Police in downtown Auckland.  I love beat work and would often walk the beat, even in my latter years as an Inspector.  Instant assessments and people profiling are second nature to a good street cop.  Instinctive judgements otherwise known as gut instincts are used everyday when dealing with unknown persons, often affected by drugs and/or alcohol.  They make all the difference for officers when interacting with the public often ensuring officer and public safety. 

A few years ago, I worked as the relieving Area Commander in Blenheim.  Being away from my home base and living in the Woodbourne Officers Mess, it was easy to work into the night and out on the streets with local staff.  The following recalls interacting with locals affected by alcohol and amusing outcomes.  Blenheim in the middle of winter is a beautiful place.  Cold sunny days and even colder, still nights.  This particular night there were a few night clubs open with two having queues formed outside them. 

I noticed a group of girls waiting to get into the night club and assessed one of the group as being very drunk.  This was a snap judgement based on years of experience.  Upon speaking with the doorman I mentioned this to him.  As the group approached the entrance the doorman refused entry to the drunk girl telling her that the policeman thought she was drunk and therefore would not be joining her friends inside. 

The young woman immediately came to argue with me about her sobriety in a very reasoned way.  In this conversation the woman presented as a thoughtful and sober person.  I was about to change my mind.  Had I got my assessment wrong.  Was my gut instinct out of practice and off key.  Doubt crept into my thoughts about my initial snap assessment. 

However, the young woman went one sentence too far in her effort to prove that she was sober.  “I demand a breast test” she articulated.  “you must breast test me immediately”.  At this point even her friends realised the game was up and fell about laughing at the language used.  This confused her even more as she could not comprehend that NZ Police do not undertake the type of test she was demanding in order to prove sobriety.