A new team of law enforcement experts are on the road this weekend to look for impaired drivers.
The officers are called DREs or, drug recognition experts. The officers are trained to recognize impaired drivers under the influence of drugs.
Twenty officers from the Columbus Division of Police, Franklin and Delaware counties sheriff’s offices and the Westerville and Dublin police departments participated in the intensive training course.
Delaware County Sheriff’s Det. Chuck Gannon said that the DREs are the next generation of policing. Training is covered by federal grants.
“We ask them basic questions like, ‘What have you eaten today? What have you drunk today? Do you take medications? Do you see a doctor? Do you see a dentist? Do you wear glasses?’” Gannon said.
Instead of waiting on lab results to determine if a driver was on drugs, DREs use techniques to determine if a driver is under the influence.
“With the DRE program, you’re able to show the impairment, and you’re able to show it now,” Gannon said.
Ohio State Highway Patrol said that between 2010 and 2011, OVI arrests were up 53 percent in Franklin County. Troopers said that many of those were drivers under the influence of drugs, not alcohol.
“Now, even in your rural communities, you see more of your drug-impaired drivers that what you do with alcohol,” Sgt. Jake Schuldt said. “You have to constantly be willing to adapt.”
That was why Schuldt said that he participated in the DRE program.
Gannon said that the three-week training program begins with a review of how well an officer can tell if a person is under the influence of alcohol.
“We can rule people out if they’re not impaired at all,” Gannon said. “We can rule it if it’s a medical impairment. We can rule it if the impairment is due to drugs.”
Officers are then taken though a crash course of seven different drug categories, including depressants like heroin.
“Other depressant drugs that fall into that category and Xanax, Valium and Sumas. With stimulants, it could be cocaine, methamphetamines, Ritalin,’ said DRE instructor Russell Kenney.
Kenney said that members of law enforcement are taught to look for certain behaviors.
“Certain drugs will dilate the pupils,” Kenney said. “Certain drugs will affect the person’s internal clock.”
DREs also check drivers’ pulses.
“We check their eyes in room light. We check their eyes in near total darkness and in direct light. We also check their nasal area,” Gannon said.
The training allows DREs to determine if a suspect is using a drug and what kind of drug.
“A lot of times, they’ll admit to it on their own,” Gannon said.
New officers involved in the DRE program also will head to the Maricopa County jail in Arizona, which processes about 900 inmates each day, to do hands-on evaluations.
“They have to be able to see the drug categories. Alcohol doesn’t count because we see it all the time,” Kenney said.
Gannon said that the DRE program works.
“I can testify to what I did, the test I did, the results that we were seeing to be able to show what category the individuals were on,” Gannon said.
Watch 10TV News and refresh 10TV.com for more information.