The History of West Virginia's DEC Program
In 2013 West Virginia became a Drug Evaluation Classification (DEC) state. This allowed West Virginia to begin training law enforcement officers as Drug Recognition Experts, as well as educating prosecutors and judges in the prosecution of drugged drivers.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) coordinates the International Drug Evaluation and Classification (DEC) Program with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP), being the state representative for NHTSA initiatives, was tasked with forming a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to discuss how the program would be created and carried out the inception of the newly established WV DRE Program.
What is a DRE?
A Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) is a law enforcement officer who has completed the Drug Evaluation Classification Programs certification process that will allow them to investigate a suspected drug impaired driver utilizing the DRE's 12-step systematic and standardized evaluation process.
What does a DRE do?
A DRE conducts a detailed, diagnostic examination of a person who has been arrested or suspected of drug-impaired driving or similar offenses. Based on the results of the drug evaluation, the DRE forms an expert opinion on the following:
- Is the person impaired? If so, is the person able to operate a vehicle safely? If the DRE concludes that the person is impaired…
- Is the impairment due to an injury, illness or other medical complication, or is it drug-related? If the impairment is due to drugs…
- Which category or combination of categories of drugs is the most likely source of the impairment?
Generally, the DRE will be called upon to conduct a DRE evaluation after the driver was arrested by another Law Enforcement Officer. However, DREs are usually active impaired driving enforcers and may perform a DRE evaluation on their own arrest when it calls for it.
DRE candidates should be comfortable with traveling cross country for certification and training. The West Virginia DEC Program utilizes field certification sites in Arizona and New Jersey, as there is not currently a certification site in West Virginia.
How is a DRE drug evaluation conducted?
The drug evaluation is typically a post-arrest procedure. DREs conduct their evaluations at police precincts, intake centers, troop detachments or other locations where impaired drivers are transported after arrest.
A DRE evaluates and assesses a person’s appearance and behavior, while they carefully measure and record vital signs and makes precise observations of the person’s automatic responses and reactions. A DRE also administers carefully designed psychophysical tests to evaluate the person’s judgment, information processing ability, coordination and various other characteristics. The DRE will systematically consider everything about the person that could indicate the influence of drugs.
The DRE drug evaluation takes approximately one hour to complete.
Who can become a DRE?
A candidate for the DRE program must meet a list of criteria before applying for the WV Drug Evaluation Classification Program. Please see the list below:
- Must be a full-time law enforcement officer
- Presently commissioned as a peace officer as defined by West Virginia Code
- Have a minimum of three (3) years of full-time law enforcement experience
- Be in “good standing” with their agency
- Not currently on a probationary status with their agency
- Presently assigned to patrol and/or traffic enforcement duties
- Those not assigned to patrol / traffic duties may be considered for DRE training on a case by case basis
- Successfully completed the IACP/NHTSA approved Standard Field Sobriety Testing Training (SFST)
- ARIDE training is required
- Must have successfully completed the NHTSA’s SFST/DWI Detection Process training at the West Virginia State Police Academy
What does DRE training consist of?
The West Virginia DRE training program is extremely demanding. To receive certification as a DRE, you must successfully complete three (3) phases of training. All phases combined take a total of three (3) weeks to complete, and are divided in two distinct time components. Phases I & II take two (2) consecutive weeks to complete, and phase III takes one (1) week to complete and is scheduled approximately one (1) month from the successful completion of phase II. The following summarizes each phase:
ACADEMIC TRAINING (Phases I & II): These phases are conducted over ten (10) days encompassing 80 hours of classroom instruction. Phase I is known as the 2-Day DRE Pre-School and Phase II as the 7-Day DRE School. Phase II also has one (1) additional day covering state specific reporting, training, and program details. Both phases include courses in physiology, vital signs, standardized field sobriety testing (SFST), and extensive material on each of the seven (7) drug categories.
This training also includes two (2) written examinations, an SFST proficiency examination, and five (5) written quizzes. Students must achieve a minimum of 80% on both written examinations, and must demonstrate proficiency in administering SFST's in order to successfully complete these phases.
CERTIFICATION PHASE (Phase III): After successfully completing academic training (phases I & II), the students must complete the certification phase (phase III). At the conclusion of the classroom training, students will attend five (5) days of field certification training at different sites across the country. These requirements include conducting a minimum of 12 drug influence evaluations while under the supervision of a DRE instructor; identifying subjects under the influence of three (3) of the seven (7) drug categories confirmed by toxicological evidence. In addition, the student must maintain a progress log, rolling log, and submit a curriculum vitae (CV). Finally, the student must pass a comprehensive final knowledge examination, and obtain the written endorsement of two (2) certified DRE instructors.
Who do I contact about becoming a DRE?
West Virginia State DEC Coordinator, Officer Joey Koher
Huntington Police Department
675 10th Street
Huntington, WV 25701
To apply to the program, click here.
For more information about DEC and DRE programs visit http://www.decp.org/.