KATY (Covering Katy News)—When students learn about the dangers of illegal drugs or driving while intoxicated, it’s one thing to listen to a teacher discussing those issues, but when the teacher’s husband is a Texas Department of Public Safety officer and shares real-world stories, things become realistic and interesting.
The high schoolers in Lauren Fitzgerald’s advanced placement psychology class at Harmony School of Innovation, 22400 Grand Corner Dr., had the unique opportunity to hear her husband Kevin share some of his stories Thursday.
Kevin Fitzgerald has been a DPS officer for 4½ years. He was a firefighter and EMS technician before deciding to pursue law enforcement. He said, “the worst thing in the world” was to have to tell a spouse or another family member that someone had been killed.
“It sucks, to be quite honest,” Fitzgerald said. “I went to a bunch of wrecks where people were killed by drunk drivers. I wanted to get those idiots off the street.”
He led a discussion that covered stimulants, depressants, opioids, narcotics, and marijuana, among others, and the statutes in place for those convicted of possessing those drugs.
Fitzgerald told the students that, despite recent state laws passed to permit the sale of marijuana in Colorado and California, the drug remains illegal in the United States. Federal law supersedes state law.
“Don’t do drugs,” he said. “They jack up your body and jack up your brain.”
Fitzgerald’s visit also had some lighter moments, one of which might be described as coming off the top of his head.
DPS Troopers, like the Texas Rangers who are part of the DPS, are known in part for their Stetson hats. Fitzgerald was wearing his and a student asked him about it. He said DPS officers are always protective of their hats.
“Don’t touch the hat,” he said, before removing it and placing it on a desk, drawing some chuckles from students.
Fitzgerald brought with him some goggles designed to distort vision so the wearer would “see” what an intoxicated see.
Students were intrigued by what they saw as the goggles were being passed around the classroom. After the passing-around, one student volunteered to wear them and undergo, in front of the class, some of the tests DPS officers use to determine if a driver is inebriated. Such tests include walking in a straight line, which is harder because of the impaired vision.
Fitzgerald said a popular misconception is that a driver suspected of inebriation is asked to recite the alphabet backward. This is not done, and Fitzgerald said he himself needs extra time to recite the alphabet backward.
Fitzgerald showed a video taken with his DPS SUV dashboard camera. The video was of a high-speed chase after a drunk driver. The incident occurred late one night, starting southbound on Eldridge Parkway, then turning west onto US 290 before the driver crashed his car against a cement highway divider, then ricocheted against the other divider, before coming to a stop. Fitzgerald ordered the driver out of the car. The driver did so and surrendered.
Students also went outside to see the SUV itself. The students were impressed both with the vehicle and the equipment that comes with it, including a computer, shotgun with ammunition, and selected rescue equipment.