SEATTLE — Cops call it one of the most important jobs they do — finding drivers who are under the influence and getting them off the street before anyone is hurt or killed.
Getting drug-impaired drivers off the road would not be possible without an elite group of officers. They’re called Drug Recognition Experts, or DRE, and most departments have at least one.
They get real world training with people who actually have drugs and/or alcohol in their systems.
The people were brought in by the state Department of Corrections so officers can get real world experience in identifying and evaluating people who are under the influence of substances other than alcohol.
“We’ll do blood pressure, we’ll do pulses, we’ll look at their eyes. Every one of those is indicative of a different drug category,” Washington State Patrol DRE Sgt. Mark Crandall said.
Police never look for a specific drug or alcohol — they look for impairment first and what substance caused the impairment second.
They’ve been doing that long before I-502, the legalization of marijuana initiative, was passed. But now they are looking closely at how legal marijuana will affect what they do.
Drug recognition experts are typically called to a scene when a driver seems to be impaired but passes a breathalyzer test.
They can determine if a person is on an illegal substance, prescription drug, or even over-the-counter medication.
“The DRE is going to have the biological side of the impairment; the decreased pulse, the decreased blood pressure, the eye exam — everything that we have that will help testify to and present that case to be impairment. They do not like seeing impaired drivers and so they`re always trying to solve that problem,” Crandall said.
Beginning next weekend, police all over the state will join together for a DUI emphasis patrols.
The focus will be drunken drivers but cops say they will be on the lookout for any and all impairment, whether by alcohol or drugs.