New program brings advanced drug training to officers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

New program brings advanced drug training to officers

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TIFTON, GA (WALB) -

Drivers who get behind the wheel after drinking, using illegal drugs, or abusing prescription drugs put us all in danger. Officers from agencies around south Georgia are getting specialized training to know how to spot those drivers and get them off the roads.

Officers from different agencies will train in Tifton for two weeks on how to quickly handle and spot someone who is under the influence of drugs. They are on a mission to do their jobs better and clean-up the roads.

Fourteen law enforcers are becoming experts on how to spot motorists under the influence. "These students have taken the time and wanted to become DRE's that less then one percent of all sworn law enforcement become. So it's just that much more for them to not only put on a resume, but make them that much better of an officer," said Drug Recognition Expert James Harper.

The Drug Recognition Program shows officers how drugs affect people and the signs and symptoms a driver will show when they're behind the wheel.

Harper says there's one important sign to look for to tell if a person is under the influence. "The eyes tell a lot about the person you come in contact with. There a seven drug categories we teach that cause impairing effects. And of those seven categories there's not one of them that does not effect the eyes in some way," said Harper.

The class is voluntary and students say it's challenging. Harper says, out of the 165 Drug Recognition Experts in Georgia, most are in the metro Atlanta area. He agrees more are needed in South Georgia, but some issues stand in the way. "It's a problem with manpower issues. As far as departments go about letting people come to this specific training cause we do two weeks on intense training," said Harper. He says this advanced training will make our roadways safer.

"The increase in drug use, it makes it more difficult for the regular officer that answers calls and does regular traffic stops to identify or take the time to take it one step further in that traffic stop to look at some of the impairing effects that we teach in our program." Illegal drugs and alcohol are not the only drugs officers will be trained to look for. They're also learning the signs of prescription drug use. Classroom training ends next Thursday.

On Friday and Saturday, the officers will go out in the streets and conduct field evaluations of drug impaired people. Once the officers are certified Drug Recognition Experts... they'll have to renew their certification every two years.

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