From WXIA, Atlanta's NBC affiliate:
Georgia now has more than 250 officers with special 'drug recognition expert' training.
So what does that mean? It means that you can be pulled over, pass every roadside sobriety test and these special officers can look at you and "recognize" that you are on drugs because I guess they're psychic or something? And you can be arrested for DUI even though you have passed the sobriety tests because this psychic cop decides that even though there's no evidence that you're high, you're high!
I don't know if this video is going to embed properly, but you can watch it here: http://www.11alive.com/news/investigations/the-drug-whisperer/437061710
You can skip ahead to about the 20:15 mark when the officer, AFTER the driver has passed several sobriety tests, asks her if she's been smoking marijuana. She says no, he says that she's "showing indications" that she has and proceeds to cuff her.
The conversation, in part, goes like this:
Officer Carroll: "I'm going to ask you a question, okay? When was the last time you smoked marijuana?"
Katelyn Ebner: "Oh, I don't do that. I can give you a drug test right now."
Officer Carroll: "You don't smoke marijuana?"
Katelyn Ebner: "I do not, no."
Officer Carroll: "Okay. Well, you're showing me indicators that you have been smoking marijuana, okay?"
And then she's arrested.
Katelyn Ebner: "I'm going to jail for marijuana?"
Officer Carroll: "No, ma'am -- not possession, unless I find any in your car. I believe you're impaired by the marijuana you've smoked."
Katelyn Ebner: "Okay, so when I do a drug test, I'll be free to go, correct?"
Officer Carroll: "You're going to jail, ma'am. Okay? I don't have a magical drug test that I can give you right now."
She's arrested with no actual evidence of having committed any crime other than the fact that this particular cop has been given the right to decide that she seems like maybe she's high because he can read some sort of bullshit "indicators." How do I know they're bullshit?
The waitress spent the night in jail, had her alcohol server's permit revoked because of the arrest. After four months, prosecutors dismissed all her charges -- because the blood test came back completely clean.
"You had to spend months -- and thousands of dollars -- proving your innocence," Keefe said.
"I did," Ebner said.
So this woman had her life fucked up pretty bad because this one officer thought he could magically determine her drug status because he had some magical training.
So what kind of training do these officers receive in order to become "drug recognition experts" (DREs)?
Well, I found this on the website of the International Association of Chiefs of Police:
The DEC Program trains law enforcement officers and other approved public safety officials as DREs through a three-phase training process:
- DRE Pre-School (16 hours)
- DRE School (56 hours)
- DRE Field Certification (Approximately 40-60 hrs)
(DEC stands for Drug Evaluation & Classification)
Not a lot of detail, except that the basis seems to be the standard roadside sobriety tests which any police officer can do, so what makes DREs special? I don't know.
I did find this training video on YouTube:
In this video, the officer talks about checking the suspect's pulse and pupil size. I had an experience with this years ago, when I was a young single fella. My girlfriend and I had just left a bar where we had gone to see a band. I had had one beer. We were in the parking lot of a public park across the street which must be the site of some drug activity, I guess. Anyway, just as I was about to start the car, a police car pulled up with lights on and the officer asked for my license & registration. He asked had I been drinking. I told the truth, one beer over an hour ago. He asked what other drugs I had taken. I told him "none." He did not believe me.
He got out his pupil measuring card, shone his light in my face, checked my pulse and told me I was definitely on something. He asked me why, if I wasn't high, was my pulse so fast and my pupils so large. I told him my pupils are just naturally large, they always look like that (which is true) and my pulse is fast because you're making me really nervous.
I gave him permission to search my car. By now another police car had pulled up and there were three officers all telling me that I was definitely on some drug or other. I offered to take a breathalyzer. I offered to take a blood test, a urine test, any test they had. I made this offer several times and none of the cops responded or acknowledged that I had said anything.Eventually a third police car arrived on the scene like I was Al Capone or something.
They did not find anything incriminating in my car, and eventually, after about an hour, and after one officer told me that I was probably "coming down," but he knew that I was on something (and as angry and frustrated as I was, I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. "Coming down?" Am I in an after-school special?" This was the 1990's!) anyway, after about an hour, they finally let me go with the recommendation that my girlfriend drive as I was obviously impaired. I didn't say anything, but I thought that if they were so convinced I was high, they had no damn business letting me get back in the car with just the advice that I have her drive. What kind of irresponsible bullshit is that?
Anyway, thank God they didn't have the DRE program back then, or they'd have cuffed me and taken me in. And I was way too pretty to go to jail!
The same thing happened to college student Princess Mbamara two weeks earlier -- on Good Friday.
Officer Carroll: "When's the last time you smoked weed?"
Princess Mbamara: "I don't smoke weed."
Officer Carroll: "You don't smoke weed?"
Princess Mbamara: "No. Not at all."
Officer Carroll: "Okay."
[And yes, this is the same Officer Carroll]
Princess Mbamara: "Wait -- okay, hold on sir."
Officer Carroll: "Just one second -- Just give me one second."
Princess Mbamara: "You're arresting me!?"
Officer Carroll: "That's correct."
Princess Mbamara: "Sir, hold on one second. I'm complying."
Princess Mbamara was also jailed. She fought the DUI-drug charges for half of 2016.
Mbamara's toxicology screen came back and only showed positive for lidocaine -- an over-the-counter local anesthetic used in transdermal patches to treat back pain, insect bites and other types of pain and discomfort
And again,I'm not sure if this video will embed, so here's a link to where you can watch it:
Months later, it happened again to an Auburn University student.
Officer Carroll: "You're giving me indicators that you have consumed marijuana, okay? So at this time, I believe that your failure to maintain lane was the reason for that -- so you're being placed under arrest for DUI, okay?"
The prosecutor filed a dismissal of the DUI-drug charge five months later: "Defendant performed well on FSEs (Field Sobriety Evaluations) and blood and urine were negative."
So what kind of consequences have their been for this officer? Well, from what I could find online:
Due to this special training and his high ate of making arrests, Carroll got a promotion and a merit raise in 2016. According to 11Alive, he got top marks for making the proper arrest or don’t arrest decisions regarding whether drivers were impaired.
However, as 11Alive noted, the three innocent people he arrested for allegedly driving under the influence that year — Ebner, Mbamara and an unnamed student from Auburn University — were not mentioned in these glowing reports.
I have not found any reports of any of the falsely arrested persons being compensated at all.
DRE programs exist in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Happy motoring!