APD upgrades breathalyzers, gives BAT Bus a break

The Austin Police Department will soon be upgrading its breathalyzers. With advancements in this technology, police will no longer use their BAT Bus to help with DWI arrests.

This past month the DWI unit decided to stop using their BAT Bus to get ready for this new transition.

All arrests during APD's "No Refusal" initiative will be taken to the jail.

Accuracy is crucial when it comes to a breath sample. Now that the Austin Police Department is upgrading its breathalyzers, they have decided to give the BAT Bus a break.    

"We're in court all the time and we want people, when we're taking breath samples and blood samples from them, we want them to be accurate samples. By doing this, that's what we're doing," says Cpl. Mike Jennings, Austin Police Department, DWI Unit.

The BAT Bus has been used since 2008 to help expedite DWI arrests. An intoxilyzer operator would test the arrested suspects for blood alcohol content. They would get processed and then go to jail.

However, the new technology requires a specific temperature, something the BAT Bus can't guarantee with no air-conditioning.

"Making sure the temperature and all that kind of stuff, is where it needs to be. The reference sample, which is the solution that goes on the side, has to maintain a certain temperature. That's what we're trying to do, keep it there," says Cpl. Jennings.

APD says they will get the upgraded breathalyzer early this year.

"As opposed to manually typing in information, you can swipe drivers license information. They've also got a reader on there to zap the bar code on the drivers license. I think a lot of the data entry stuff will improve," says Cpl. Jennings.

In the past, the BAT Bus might handle 25 DWI arrests in a night. It would allow officers to return to their patrol duties faster. Now anyone arrested for DWI will be brought here to the jail. Could that mean a delay in processing?

"We're kind of going through an evaluation period with that. That's one of the things we looked at. If anything would slow us down, it's the booking process at the jail. So that's why we took that officer that was working on the bus and moved them down to the jail to kind of keep that thing going. That way an officer can still drop their prisoner off and we still have computers at the jail where they can do their paperwork and everything else," says Cpl. Jennings.

The intoxilizer operator that was on the bus is now also at the jail. Jennings says they will assign another officer to help with bookings and transports if needed later on.

"No Refusal" will go until January 4th. Despite not having the bat bus - the department says it won't slow them down from getting drunk drivers off the roads. The DWI unit is considering what other initiatives the bus could be potentially be used in.