Drug Recognition Expert by Sergeant Dan Gearhart
Recognizing that local problems need local solutions, the Smithville CIA seeks to mobilizing the entire community— youth, parents, teachers, police, reporters, extra-curricular instructors, health care providers, faith communities, business professionals, civic leaders, government representatives, and other Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug providers. We know that strategically aligning not only the “movers and shakers,” but also the “grassroots” folks who have strong links within neighborhoods and informal institutions reduce substance abuse among youth and, over time, among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse and promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse.
In January we are pleased to highlight our law enforcement officers. Sergeant Dan Gearhart tells us about the recent training he received to be able to keep the Smithville community safer. Thank you for your service Sergeant Gearhart.
As a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), I attended three weeks of training that occurred in Jefferson City and St. Joseph, Missouri. This was slightly different from previous years due to the pandemic. The program is sponsored by the Missouri Safety Center and the Missouri State Highway Patrol Academy.
The course has been created with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The program uses physiological signs that are subconscious, that the person cannot control, to determine the drug category that may be impacting the subject. Some of these include ability to follow instructions, divided attention tests, blood pressure, pulse, temperature and various aspects of the subject’s eyes.
The DRE program was designed with impaired driving in mind, but the program can expand far beyond impaired driving. The DRE can perform an evaluation on victims and suspects in other criminal cases to determine if impairment exists, and if so, what is suspected to cause the impairment.
In 2020, the Smithville Police Department made 79 Driving While Intoxicated arrests, 11 of those were suspected to be under the influence of drugs. In 2021, we have already had three DWI arrests, one of which was drug impaired. Most people associate drugged driving with illicit drugs, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, etc. However, drugged driving often occurs when a driver takes prescription medication.
We have also seen a large increase in THC “vape” cartridges, especially in the hands of minors. The availability of THC cartridges has made it easy to order them and having them delivered to their home without ever going into public. THC cartridges resemble standard nicotine cartridges to the untrained eye, but have far greater impacts to the subject or driver.
The THC content in edibles and extract products (such as vape cartridges) is extremely high and has not been studied in this content. The current THC products can greatly impair the consumer while the consumer may not be aware of the impairment.
The reason I chose to attend this intense training was to keep our community safe. Impaired driving can impact anyone of us at anytime. With the approval of medical marijuana, we expect to see an increase in marijuana impaired driving, as other states have seen accompany the legalization. My goal is to ensure that those who are driving impaired, or otherwise abusing or misusing medications, are held accountable for their actions and are able to receive any help that they may need.