NICEVILLE — In a small, windowless room at Northwest Florida State College, five women prepared to get drunk. Bottles of Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Bacardi Rum sat on a table in front of them surrounded with liters of Coke, Sprite and pineapple juice.

It sounds like a typical collegiate activity. It’s not.

Four trained law officers were in charge of getting the volunteers intoxicated in a span of three hours — all in the name of education.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) funds the Traffic and Safety DUI Enforcement Training class. It’s a key component in educating law officers about how to spot the signs of a drunken driver.

The officers also learn or improve on how to perform the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSV). The class is done in conjunction with Tallahassee Community College’s Florida Institute of Public Safety.

“I’ve been an officer for 20 years and I went to this class 19 years ago,” class instructor Glenn Ford said. “The class itself has been around for a long time.”

Law officers taking the class ranged in experience. “We have two students who are brand new officers and a lieutenant with 27 years of experience,” Ford said.

Ford, and his partner, Jason Teems, teach the field sobriety classes all over Florida.

“The class helps officers enhance their abilities to recognize the signs of impairment, whether individuals are under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Teems said.

People volunteer to get intoxicated so officers can practice recognizing the signs of impairment in real time.

Joe DeRogatis, a law enforcement trainer and contractor from Black Owl Network in Boca Raton, told the volunteers how the field sobriety testing class would go.

Each of the five women were breathalyzed to determine their starting blood-alcohol levels. They were then given two mixed drinks with rum or vodka and a mixer.

Volunteers played games and listened to music while sipping on their drinks. At the end of the first round, the group was breathalyzed a second time and allowed a 10-minute break.

Blood-alcohol levels ranged from 0.02 for two of the women to 0.03 and 0.04 for the other three. After three rounds of mixed drinks and several breathalyzer tests, all the volunteers were at or above a 0.8 BAC level.

Instructors guided the volunteers out to 17 waiting law officers, who were split up into groups. Each officer took turns performing the standardized field sobriety tests on the volunteers. The SFST consists of three mini tests the officer asks the possibly impaired person to perform.

The first test, called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, is done with a pen. It detects an involuntary, quick, “bouncing” movement of the eyeball when the impaired person looks from side to side. The officer tells the subject to follow the path of the pen and waits until he or she detects the tell-tale jerking movement in the eyeball.

The walk-and-turn test comes with a set of lengthy directions the officer explained. Volunteers had to walk nine steps heel-to-toe along a straight line, and then pivot on one foot to turn around and walk in the opposite direction. The officer looks for signs of impairment even before the test begins such as balance issues, stepping off the line or taking the wrong number of steps.

The final SFST consists of a one-leg balance test, in which the impaired person is asked to keep one leg six inches off the ground and count out loud until the officer asks them to stop using the cadence “one one-thousand, two one thousand, three one-thousand” and so forth.

Officers look for the person’s inability to balance, hopping to prevent falling and putting his or her raised foot on the ground for stability.

After the three tests, the officers were brought into a classroom to see if they could determine the approximate BAC level of each volunteer.

“In the past, we’ve had a volunteer use Listerine to give off the scent of alcohol, but they weren’t impaired at all,” Teems said.

The instructors asked officers for a show of hands to see if they would arrest the volunteers or let them go. There were a range of answers based on the hands, despite that all five volunteers were impaired.

Officers in Florida must recognize and observe all the elements of a DUI in order to make an arrest.