Recognizing the importance of removing substance impaired drivers from the roadways of our community, the Police Department has responded by participation in a Drug Recognition Expert Program. Officer Nicholas Schultz has attended significant advanced training and is recognized in court as "Drug Recognition Experts".
History and Development
A drug recognition expert or drug recognition evaluator (DRE) is a police officer trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) coordinates the International Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) originated the program in the early 1970s. Back then, LAPD officers noticed that many of the individuals arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) had very low or zero alcohol concentrations. The officers reasonably suspected that the arrestees were under the influence of drugs, but lacked the knowledge and skills to support their suspicions. In response, two LAPD sergeants collaborated with various medical doctors, research psychologists, and other medical professionals to develop a simple, standardized procedure for recognizing drug influence and impairment. Their efforts culminated in the development of a multi-step protocol and the first DRE program. The LAPD formally recognized the program in 1979.
The LAPD DRE program attracted the NHTSA's attention in the early 1980s. The two agencies collaborated to develop a standardized DRE protocol, which led to the development of the DEC Program. During the ensuing years, the NHTSA and various other agencies and research groups examined the DEC program. Their studies demonstrated that a properly trained DRE can successfully identify drug impairment and accurately determine the category of drugs causing such impairment.
Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia, three branches of the military, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and several countries around the world participate in the DEC Program.
How many people drive under the influence of something other than alcohol?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 65% of all drivers arrested for DWI, have substances other than alcohol impairing their abilities to drive at the time of their arrest.
How many officers have had this training?
There are nearly 6,000 DREs in the U.S. Minnesota currently has 162 officers from 80 different departments trained in these skills.
What does the training entail?
Training to be a DRE is difficult and very extensive. Many officers say that it is the most difficult training that they have ever attended. The training consists of 9 days of classroom training. They learn about:
- Human physiology
- The 12-step process
- Documentation of observations
- Courtroom testimony
- Cedical conditions
- Indications of each specific drug category
- Enhance their Standard Field Sobriety Test skills
Officers then go through certification training. During this phase, the newly trained DREs will sharpen their detection and interpretation skills on actual drug impaired subjects.
Isn't the issue of drugged drivers more of a problem for larger communities, like Minneapolis-St. Paul?
Not necessarily. Minnesota DREs complete over 800 evaluations of drug impaired drivers every year. Of those 800 evaluations, approximately one third are done outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Can someone be arrested if they are taking a prescription?
Definitely. Minnesota Statute states that it is a violation if a person "drives, operates, or is in physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance." It does not matter if the person has a prescription or not; however, it is an affirmative defense if they are taking the medication as prescribed. It also states that it is a violation to be "knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance that affects the nervous system, brain, or muscles of the person so as to substantially impair the person's ability to drive or operate the motor vehicle." Those items include paint, paint thinner, glue, etc.
Funding for the training of Officer Schultz came directly from the proceeds of Police Department DWI Forfeiture Funds. These funds are derived from the sale of vehicles seized from repeat DWI offenders, per State of Minnesota law.