KSAT gets behind-the-scenes look at SAPD’s DWI wet lab

SAPD’s wet lab is part of DWI enforcement training for all cadets

SAN ANTONIO – The holiday weekend is here, and that means San Antonio police officers will be on the roads looking for drunk drivers.

Drunk driving arrests over Labor Day weekend have increased over the past two years. San Antonio police made 34 DWI arrests in 2021 and that number doubled to 62 in 2022.

DWI enforcement is a key part of training for all SAPD cadets, and KSAT recently got a behind-the-scenes look at some of that process.

SAPD’s DWI Wet Lab is an opportunity for all cadets to learn how to identify drivers who are near or above the legal limit.

A group of civilian participants are invited to partake in the wet lab. They are given alcohol to consume and a meal.

“It’s actually a scientific experiment where participants who are willing to consume alcoholic beverage are actually given a certain amount of dose to get them right at the legal limit,” said Ofc. William Kasberg, with SAPD’s DWI Unit.

Each participant has to answer a series of questions before entering the lab and choose whether to be over or under the legal limit. They get a letter and a designated glass to drink out of. Their alcohol is predetermined before they start to drink it.

“The actual science goes for anybody consuming alcoholic beverage based on gender, their weight and if they’ve consumed food,” said Kasberg. “All of those factors go into absorption of alcoholic beverage in the system, the manner in which it’s actually removed from the system as well. We ensure they have designated drivers and ensure they haven’t consumed an alcoholic beverage.”

Once the participants are done in the wet lab, they are taken to the gymnasium so cadets can run field sobriety tests to identify who is either over or under the legal limit.

“Officers can identify different clues while they are performing sobriety tests they’ll be conducting roadside, as well as the participants even understanding the actual impairment,” said Kasberg.

Kasberg said cadets go through a minimum of 40 hours of DWI training at the academy. The wet lab is a key exercise before they hit the streets for the real thing.

“It truly is the life-saving that officers do. It’s preventive in nature. It’s not to arrest people. It’s preventative in nature to stop fatality crashes, stop all the property damage and things of that nature,” said Kasberg. “Typically, what we have found is people that are at the legal limit feel invincible. I’m OK to drive and they say, ‘Well, I’ve just got a little bit of a buzz.’ And of course, as we know in Texas, buzzed driving is drunk driving.”

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About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.