BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — As law enforcement agencies in North Dakota begin a concentrated effort to catch impaired drivers, some 60 officers will be using their specially trained skills to detect motorists who are high on drugs.
About 20 agencies across the state employ officers who have taken the rigorous, internationally utilized training program that helps law enforcement identify drivers who are under the influence of drugs other than alcohol.
The program involves a systematic, 12-step protocol using clinical signs to determine whether a driver is impaired, whether the impairment is caused by a medical issue or drugs, and if drug use is suspected, what category or categories of drugs may be the cause of the impairment.
“We can’t go in predisposed that the person is intoxicated,” said Highway Patrol trooper Tarek Chase, the state’s drug recognition expert training program coordinator. “This person may be having a medical event, so the DRE (drug recognition expert) is also used to identify that, instead of wrongfully arresting someone and bringing them to jail.”
Chase says law enforcement officers statewide have noticed an increase in drug-impaired driving.
“To me, it seems like we’ve been able to get that word of mouth out talking about alcohol impairment,” Chase said. “That’s been preached for many years. But I think there is a bit of a misconception when it comes to drug impairment.”
Officers apply and must be selected to undergo three weeks of intensive training at a cost of about $4,000.
Law enforcement agencies statewide begin a “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement campaign Friday that runs through Sept. 2.