From STAFF REPORTS
The battle to combat drugged driving recently received a new weapon in its arsenal, thanks to a local sergeant.
Washington County Sheriff Keith Sexton has announced Sgt. Kevin Hurd’s recently received the Outstanding Commitment as a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) in the East Tennessee Region from the Governor’s Highway Safety Office.
Hurd received the award from State DRE Coordinator Tony Burnett during a recent luncheon.
A DRE is trained to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.
“WCSO is extremely lucky to have Sgt. Hurd ready to train our officers, and it was great for the State to recognize him as one of the best,” Sexton said. “Tony Burnett was very complimentary of Sgt. Hurd regarding the training he has prepared to educate other officers and we look forward to sharing that training with other agencies as well.”
Less than half of one percent of all officers in the United States are DREs. There are only two in Washington County and both are WCSO deputies.
“Knowing whether a driver is under the influence of drugs is a valuable skill for any officer to have,” explained Sexton. “Sgt. Hurd is educating our deputies on what to look for during a field sobriety test so they’ll know if an evaluation by a DRE is necessary to build a case around an
impaired driving charge.”
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which manages and coordinates the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program, drug recognition gives officers a means of identifying and prosecuting drug-impaired drivers. The drug recognition expert’s main focus is the detection and recognition of drug-impaired drivers.
“DREs are trained to do a more in-depth evaluation on an impaired driver to determine what class of drugs they’re on,” Hurd said. “I recently became an instructor because every officer needs to know what to look for on a traffic stop when they suspect someone is driving impaired.”
For instance, an impaired driver could have a medical problem such as diabetes or a seizure disorder. Officers who are trained in Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection Enforcement
(ARIDE) will know what to look for when doing a field sobriety test to determine the source of the impairment.
After conducting a field sobriety test, the officer can get a DRE involved. Evaluations for drugged driving differ from those for drunk driving. DREs need controlled environments in which to observe drivers.
“The best thing every law enforcement agency can do to combat drugged driving is to get officers ARIDE training,” Hurd said. “Once we get officers trained to look for certain signs, they’ll know the difference between medical emergencies, drugged driving and drunk driving. Area officers need to know what to look for, especially with the legalization of marijuana in
DRE training is completed in two phases. The first phase involved 72 hours of class time. It includes courses in physiology, vital signs, Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST), and extensive information on each of the seven categories of the drugs of abuse. The training includes three written examinations, a SFST proficiency examination and five written quizzes.
Students must achieve a minimum of 80% on the three examinations and must demonstrate proficiency in administering SFST’s in order to progress to the certification phase.
After successfully completing the academic portion, the students must complete the certification phase within six months. These requirements include conducting a minimum of 12 drug influence evaluations while under the supervision of a DRE instructor: identifying subjects under
the influence of four of the seven drug categories; and attaining a 75% toxicological confirmation rate.
Students must pass a comprehensive final knowledge examination and obtain the written
endorsement of two certified DRE instructors.
DRE certification is valid for two years. In order to maintain certification, DREs must conduct a minimum of four evaluations every two years, submit an updated rolling log, an updated curriculum vitae, and attend 8-hours of approved re-certification training.