ST. PAUL — Minnesota law enforcement officers will continue to have access to Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) training under an updated program announced today by Col. Kevin Daly, chief of the State Patrol.
The program improvements will include moving a portion of the training to another state with a recognized field certification process, developing a new written training plan for participants, and a new supervisory structure to increase accountability.
“Taking impaired drivers off our streets is a priority for law enforcement,” said Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman. “The Drug Recognition Evaluator program helps arresting officers identify drug-impairment and obtain convictions as recognized experts in court. It was imperative that we take appropriate steps to restore public confidence and ensure the integrity of this important program.”
Commissioner Dohman suspended DRE training last year following allegations that a police officer provided marijuana to a potential subject. The training requires evaluating drug-impaired subjects.
A criminal investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the findings were presented to Hennepin County Attorney for review. No criminal charges were filed against DRE students or instructors.
In addition, Commissioner Dohman directed that an investigation and audit of the DRE training program be conducted by the Department of Public Safety Internal Affairs Division.
Both of these investigations offered recommendations for the program that included:
• Increase field supervision.
• Improve program oversight.
• Establish a training plan for the field certifications.
• Improve communication of program guidelines and student expectations.
• Define acceptable practices for obtaining voluntary evaluation subjects.
“The Drug Recognition Evaluator program has been effective at successfully prosecuting drug-impaired drivers for 22 years,” Col. Daly said. “With the improvements we are announcing today, the State Patrol will continue to provide DRE training to Minnesota law enforcement officers.”
Col. Daly announced several actions to address the recommendations:
1. The classroom portion of the training will continue to occur in Minnesota, while the field evaluations will now take place in California through an established program for DRE certifications conducted by the California Highway Patrol. Officers from around the country and around the world travel to California for certification.
In California, unlike Minnesota, the presence of controlled substances in a person is a violation of state law. To complete DRE certifications, impaired subjects are arrested and transported to the California Highway Patrol facility for evaluations. After voluntary participation, the subjects are typically cited and released.
In the past, it has taken weeks for students to achieve the required number of subject evaluations in Minnesota. The California certification process will take only days.
2. A State Patrol Lieutenant will now coordinate training and provide oversight of the program in order to increase accountability and improve supervision. The coordinator will report to the State Patrol Director of Training, providing an added layer of supervision.
3. Supervisory-rank instructors will now lead DRE training, serving both as instructors and providing additional oversight for non-supervisory training instructors.
4. The DRE coordinator will develop and implement a written training plan for field certifications which will be approved by the Director of Training. The plan will be followed and communicated to the students during their training and will include a clear definition of the chain of authority to address any concerns.
The DRE program trains law enforcement officers to detect and remove drug impaired drivers from the road. An officer who receives this training is certified as a drug recognition evaluator (DRE). Currently 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada participate in the DRE program.
Minnesota’s DRE program has been managed by the State Patrol since its inception in 1991. There are 188 DRE officers in Minnesota representing 92 agencies.
There have been 2,509 drug-impaired evaluations conducted by DREs in Minnesota in the last five years.
DRE training consists of nine days of classroom work where officers learn about specific drug categories, physiology, and work to enhance their Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) skills.
Following the classroom training, and to complete certification, DRE candidates must perform 12 evaluations on drug-impaired subjects monitored and verified by DRE instructors. In the past, volunteer subjects who appeared to be impaired were typically recruited from the community.
The DRE program was developed in Los Angeles in the 1970s when police officers noticed that many individuals arrested for DWI had very low, or no, alcohol concentrations. The officers suspected that their suspects 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 national DRE program is managed and coordinated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
DPS comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Minnesota State Patrol
More than 500 Minnesota State Patrol troopers are the foundation of the agency that works to provide a safe environment on Minnesota’s roads by assisting motorists, taking enforcement action, and educating drivers about traffic safety issues. In addition to road safety activities, troopers conduct flight patrols, search and rescue missions, and assist other law enforcement agencies.
In 1929, the Minnesota Legislature created the Highway Patrol after lawmakers recognized the need for a traffic enforcement agency in response to the boom of automobiles. The first patrol force comprised 35 men. In 1970, the Highway Patrol became a division of the Department of Public Safety, and four years later its official name was changed to the Minnesota State Patrol.
Recent State Patrol Highlights
• Forty-two Minnesota State Patrol cadets graduated May 23 following 15 weeks of rigorous and demanding training exercises and course work at Camp Ripley. The new troopers are now partnered with veteran troopers to conduct field training for 16 weeks before they begin solo patrols.
• Find preliminary crash reports online at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/msp/Pages/default.aspx.