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Training May Help Law Enforcement Nab Drivers Impaired By Narcotics

A Washtenaw County Sheriff's Deputy has completed specialized training that will enhance the department’s ability to detect and arrest drugged drivers.

New training provided to a Washtenaw County Sherriff’s Office deputy may help law enforcement nab drivers impaired by narcotics.

Deputy Douglas McMullen has completed specialized training that will enhance the department’s ability to detect and arrest drugged drivers, according to a press release issued by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office.

McMullen was one of 15 officers to take part in the state’s first Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) course. DREs are trained to recognize signs of impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol and to identify the category or categories of drugs causing the impairment. DREs conduct a 12-step evaluation process to make this determination.

“Having a DRE on staff will enhance efforts to reduce all types of impaired driving in our community,” said Sheriff Jerry L. Clayton. “DREs improve traffic safety through their knowledge of the signs, symptoms and effects of drug use.”

McMullen took part in two weeks of instruction at the Michigan State Police Training Academy in Lansing and spent a third week conducting drug assessments at the Maricopa County Jail in Arizona. This facility processes an average of 900 inmates per day, which provided officers the opportunity to conduct hands-on drug evaluations for all seven drug categories, as required by the course.

The DRE program, also referred to as the Drug Evaluation Classification program, began in the 1970s with the Los Angeles Police Department. The program operates under the guidelines and direction of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and is supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. There are more than 7,300 DREs across the nation.

Although Michigan has experienced a decrease in alcohol-related crashes, fatalities and arrests, it has noted an increase in drug-involvement in traffic crashes and injuries. In 2009, drugs accounted for an additional 83 injuries and 89 crashes compared to 2008. In 2010, drug-involved fatalities increased by 29 percent with 153 motorists killed in crashes involving drugs. Some of that increase can be attributed to expanded testing requests.

Nationally, 18 percent of all drivers killed in crashes in 2009 tested positive for drugs, according to NHTSA. In Michigan, 20 percent of drivers killed tested positive for drugs.

(This article was submitted as a press release by the Washtenaw County Sherriff’s Office)

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