Police officers train to recognize drivers impaired by drugs

Tennessee News

In the two years  Adam Malone has been a state trooper, he’s seen a disturbing, growing trend in the field. 

“I noticed that half of my DUIs were because of drugs instead of alcohol,” Malone said. 

Like most officers, he had basic training on what to look for during a DUI stop like slurred speech. 

“You’re seeing different signs,” Malone said. 

But with drugs, he says, recognizing the signs of impairment is different. 

“You do field sobriety tests, but you don’t smell alcohol.” Malone said. “You don’t see the bloodshot eyes.” 

Malone is one of 18 law enforcement officers training to become a Drug Recognition Expert, known as a DRE. 

“The basic officer is not trained to do this,” Burnett said. “It takes a lot of skill to become a DRE.” 

Burnett says those skills are now being taught through a nine-day DRE training program. 

The training starts off with basic skills then graduates to more advanced training. 
     
“We have 12 steps that we go through,” Burnett said. 

Officers from different agencies learn the seven different drug categories and clinical signs of drug abuse. 

Burnett says since 2015 drug impairment has caused more deadly crashes in Tennessee than alcohol. 

Last year, 242 deadly crashes in the state were caused by drug-impairment compared to 199 caused by alcohol. 

“We had to up our game,” Burnett said. “We need more people trained.” 

There are currently 177 DREs in the state. 

The goal is to have more than 200 on the street by the end of the year, according to Burnett. 

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