FLINT TWP. — Following up on erroneous public comment a few months ago about township police officers competing with Grand Blanc Township officers to see who could arrest the most drunk drivers, Police Chief George Sippert offered an explanation at the township board meeting last week.
Two township officers—Michael Nemecheck and Nicholas Sabo—have been certified as Drug Recognition Experts under a program coordinated by The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) program trains officers to recognize impairment in drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.
Officers often encounter drivers impaired by various drugs, including prescription drugs that may not register on blood alcohol or breath test, Sippert said.
Nemecheck and Sabo join the ranks of only 50 officers in Michigan with certification to evaluate and detect drivers under the influence of all substances, Sippert said. Grand Blanc Township also has two which is probably what led to the misunderstanding about there being a competition, Sippert said.
The intensive training began in January when the two officers successfully applied to be accepted in the program. That was followed by a twoday pre-class where they took a test they had to pass in order to continue in the program, Sippert said.
Next came a one-week program in which they had to achieve a score of at least 80 each day to avoid being sent home.
After completing that program, they spent several days at a national training session in Arizona where they worked on actual cases reviewing individuals then had to support their findings.
Training wrapped up with a fourhour comprehensive exam which they passed to earn DRE certification.
“I am very proud of what these two officers have accomplished,” Sippert said. “It can only help us as we continue our battle against impaired driving and … accidents involving impaired driving.”
The DRE program was started by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in the early 1970s, according to a history provided online. LAPD officers noticed that many of people arrested for driving under the influence had very low or zero alcohol concentrations. Suspecting other drug use, the officers realized that they lacked the knowledge to support their beliefs. They worked with medical doctors, research psychologists, and other medical professionals to develop a standardized procedure for recognizing drug influence and impairment. Their efforts attracted NHTSA’s attention in the early 1980s.
Currently, 49 states, the District of Columbia are participating in the program.
In the Field Certification Phase of the training, officers learn to describe the involvement of drugs in impaired driving incidents; name the seven drug categories and recognize their effects; describe and properly administer psychophysical and physiological evaluations used in the drug evaluation and classification procedures; prepare a narrative evaluation report; discuss appropriate procedures for testifying in typical drug evaluation and classification cases, and; maintain an up-to-date DRE curriculum vitae.
DRE’s are required to attend eight hours of re-certification training every two years.
They keep abreast of seven drug categories: Central Nervous System Depressants (for example, Valium and Prozac); CNS Stimulants (e.g. cocaine, crack); Hallucinogens, (e.g. LSD and Ecstasy); Dissociative Anesthetics (e.g. PCP); Narcotic Analgesics, (e.g. Opium, heroin, Codeine); Inhalants (e.g. plastic cement, paint thinners, gasoline), and Cannabis (marijuana). Drugs from each of these categories can affect a person’s central nervous system an impair normal faculties, including the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.