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Drug Recognition Expert (DRE)
Patrol Division
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In 2010 the Clay County Sheriff’s Office implemented a Drug Recognition Program.  This is to better recognize and remove drug impaired drivers from our roadways.  Deputy Mark Empting and Deputy Josh Schroeder are certified as “Drug Recognition Experts.”

History and Development

PillsA drug recognition expert (DRE) 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 Associations of the 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 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, 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.

In 1987, NHTSA initiated DEC pilot programs in Arizona, Colorado, New York and Virginia. The states of Utah, California, and Indiana were added in 1988. Beginning in 1989, IACP and NHTSA expanded the DEC Program across the country. 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.

In 1992 the governing board of the International Association of Chiefs of Police approved the creation of the Drug Recognition Section. On June 10-13, 1995, the section hosted a training conference on impaired driving in Phoenix, Arizona. Since then the IACP Training Conference on Drugs, Alcohol and Impaired Driving has convened every year and is attended by DREs and their instructors, DUI enforcement officers, prosecutors, toxicologists, medical and school professionals, and other highway safety advocates.

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 180 officers from 81 different departments trained in these skills.

What does the training entail?

Training to be a DRE is difficult and extremely extensive.  Many officers say that it is the most difficult training that they have ever attended (including their academy). The training consists of nine days of classroom training.  Here, you will learn about human physiology, the 12 step process, documentation of your observations, courtroom testimony, medical conditions, indications of each specific drug category, and enhance your SFST skills.  Step 2 is certification training.  During this phase, the newly trained DREs will sharpen their detection and interpretation skills on actual drug impaired subjects.  This portion of training was completed in Minneapolis, MN.  There are also several tests and quizzes during the process. 

Isn't the issue of drugged drivers more of a Metro problem?

Not necessarily.  Minnesota DREs complete over 800 evaluations of drug impaired drivers every year.  Of those 800 evaluations, approximately 1/3 are done by 'out state' DREs.

PillsCan someone be arrested if they are taking a prescription?

Definitely.  Minnesota Stature 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 (it is, however, an affirmative defense if they are taking the prescription 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.

For further information regarding the DRE program, contact Deputy Mark Empting.

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