Foxborough Police Awarded Grant for 5 Portable Breathalyzers
The portable breath test machines are said to increase the town’s protection against potential lawsuits claiming false arrests at Gillette Stadium events.
Foxborough police recently obtained five additional portable breathalyzers for the department through an insurance grant applied for by Deputy Chief John Chandler.
The five breath test machines will be used primarily to improve police accuracy in determining whether patrons attending Gillette Stadium events are incapacitated before being taken into protective custody.
“Rather than just having a few machines available where people are actually processed and booked, we have preliminary testing stations at the wagons where people are brought to and we encourage them, if they [claim they] are not impaired, to take the portable breath test, which would give us a more scientific method of determining whether they are incapacitated,” Foxborough Police Chief Edward O’Leary said.
The portable breathalyzers also raise Foxborough’s level of protection against class action lawsuits and civil rights claims similar to the one challenging the town’s protective custody during Gillette Stadium events.
Several concertgoers filed a class action lawsuit against the town and O’Leary in September, claiming over a thousand people were held in protective custody unlawfully because they were intoxicated but not incapacitated, according to a press release issued by the Law Offices of Howard Friedman.
These five portable breathalyzers will now provide police with the evidence they need to prove an individual was taken into custody because he or she was incapacitated.
“Our insurance company only funds this grant program at the prospect of reducing claims to save us money and save them money,” Foxborough Town Manager Kevin Paicos said. “The reason this is so significant is this now gives us the capability to be a lot more sure when we bring people into custody right out there at the point of arrest that they are over the legal limit. We can’t do that without these portable units. This gives us a much higher level of protection against liability lawsuits where people would claim that they were grabbed and weren’t really drunk.”
Paicos said it wasn’t until the town’s insurance company saw the value in preventing lawsuits and civil rights claims that it awarded the police department with the grant.
“[The companys] initial reaction was not to fund it but after John [Chandler] did some more work and some of us spoke to [the insurance company] they saw the value of this in terms of reducing claims potential for false arresting,” Paicos said. “They were very happy to fund them. … If these prevent one civil rights claim then it is a massive savings for the town so we are enthusiastic about having these.”
O’Leary says the portable breathalyzers are each up to standard and are the newest model.
The idea to apply for the grant came to Chandler from a safety meeting officers attended with the town's insurance company. Following the meeting, Chandler approached O’Leary about whether the department should pursue additional portable breath testing machines given the volume of people police deal with during Gillette Stadium events.
“I encouraged him to [pursue the grant],” O’Leary said. “At first [our insurance representative] said he wasn’t sure whether it would fall under the guidelines [of the grant] but [Chandler] drafted some additional information for them to consider and as a result we were able to obtain five additional portable breath testing machines.”
Even with the five additional breathalyzers, O’Leary pointed out individuals attending these events are initially stopped by police because of their behavior.
“The key thing is we don’t ordinarily just pick on somebody who is walking,” O’Leary said. “It is their behavior while they are walking or their inability to walk that brings the person to our attention.”
The grant is just another example of the town leveraging its capacity to utilize funding and training opportunities, according to O’Leary.
“At the end of the month we are having our driver simulator come into the public safety building,” O’Leary said. “I know that both myself and [Fire] Chief [Roger] Hatfield will be having different staff members go through both a classroom exercise as well as the driver simulator again to improve skills, make officers and firemen more aware of driving dangers and hopefully reduce potential motor vehicle crashes that could occur.”
O’Leary added the town’s insurance company is always willing to provide different types of services, training and potential grants to enhance the safety and operation of town departments. This is a valuable example of that partnership.