MEDFORD, Ore. — A possible change to one Oregon law is impacting what grounds officers can arrest somebody for a DUII. Lawmakers are continuing to look over a bill that would expand what drugs qualify as a DUII in the state. Impaired drivers on prescription and synthetic drugs could soon fall in that category.
Several Medford Police officers are considered Drug Recognition Experts or DRE’s. These officers go through specialized training and can determine if a driver is impaired on alcohol or drugs. A DRE is usually brought in after an arrest is made.The officer will check the driver’s blood alcohol content.
If the person blows zero or under a .08, and the officer believes the person is still clearly impaired, the DRE steps in, moving onto the next step. It’s an extensive 12 step process to determine the type of drug a driver is on.
The officer checks the driver’s balance, urine sample, body and eyes. Officer Earnest Whiteman Jr. is one of six Medford police officers trained to detect drug impaired drivers. Officer Whiteman says different drugs react with the body in different ways.
“Such as with a stimulant, methamphetamine, that could increase your body temperature, could increase your pulse rate, make your blood pressure higher; narcotics, it has a complete opposite effect as that. So, we’re looking at a whole bunch of different things,” explained Officer Whiteman.
Training in drug detection doesn’t stop. DRE’s go through new training courses ever year. There are DRE law enforcement officers in the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, and police departments in Talent, Ashland and Grants Pass. There are two new Medford Police officers who are currently training to become DRE’s.