HARRISBURG – In Pennsylvania’s latest effort to bolster highway safety, nine state troopers and eight municipal police officers have completed training to be certified by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as drug recognition experts, or DREs, according to State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan.
“The Drug Evaluation and Classification Program is a national effort to train police officers to determine when an individual has been driving under the influence of drugs and to identify the type of drug causing the impairment,” Noonan said.
The program also trains officers to recognize whether an individual is suffering from a medical condition rather than drug impairment, he added.
Drug Recognition Experts are trained to determine if a driver is under the influence of illegal drugs, prescription drugs or any other substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.
“Motorists should know that they may be incapable of driving safely and can be charged with driving under the influence after ingesting any intoxicating substance, whether the substance is legal or illegal, prescribed by a physician or purchased over the counter. Individuals need to be aware of how taking a particular drug will affect their body,” Noonan said.
Pennsylvania’s DRE training program is coordinated by Cpl. David Andrascik of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Patrol’s Driving Under the Influence/Field Operations Unit.
The program, which was developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and approved by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, includes classroom study and hands-on exercises for participating officers.
In 2004, Pennsylvania became the 39th state in the country to have a Drug Evaluation and Classification Program approved by the IACP. With the additional officers obtaining certification, the state will have 81 troopers and 36 municipal police officers certified as DREs.
Since the program began, Pennsylvania DREs have conducted more than 8,000 evaluations of people believed to be impaired by substances other than alcohol. Arrests for driving under the influence of drugs have nearly tripled statewide during that time. In 2012, the DREs conducted 2,257 evaluations, and a total of nearly 15,000 individuals were charged with DUI/drugs.
In 39 percent of the cases the motorists were determined to be under the influence of central nervous system depressant drugs. Other drugs identified in the evaluations included marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids (39 percent), narcotic analgesic drugs (35 percent) and central nervous system stimulant drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines (13 percent).
In more than 40 percent of the evaluations, the motorists were determined to be under the influence of more than one category of drugs.
Troopers who completed training in April are: Tpr. Paul Tononi , Troop A, Greensburg; Tpr. Jeffrey Tihey , Troop B, Washington; Tpr. Christopher Filer , Troop D, Mercer; Tpr. Jason Young , Troop D, New Castle; Cpl. Craig Polen , Troop F, Milton; Cpl. David Barr , Troop K, Philadelphia; Tpr. Michael Felsman , Troop M, Dublin; Tpr. Steven Moyer , Troop M, Belfast; and Cpl. Shawn Noonan , Troop N, Lehighton.
Municipal police officers certified last month as DREs are: Sgt. Douglas Ogden , Moon Township Police Department, Allegheny County; Sgt. Rodney Estep Jr. , Hollidaysburg Borough Police Department, Blair County; Officer Rian Bell, Derry Township Police Department, Dauphin County; Cpl. William Hines Jr. , Northern Cambria Police Department, Cambria County; Patrolman Richard Blais, Southern Regional Police Department, York County; Sgt. Cory Reader, Upper Macungie Police Department, Lehigh County; Patrolman Aaron Levan, Williamsport Police Department, Lycoming County; and Patrolman Matthew Grunden , Hampden Township Police Department, Cumberland County.
For more information about the Pennsylvania State Police, visit www.psp.state.pa.us or call 717-783-5556.