A statewide police-training program that was suspended in the wake of claims that officers gave out marijuana has been reinstated with a host of changes — including an end to studying stoned volunteers in Minnesota, officials said Friday.
"Taking impaired drivers off our streets is a priority for law enforcement," Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman said. "It was imperative that we take appropriate steps to restore public confidence and ensure the integrity of this important program."
Controversy erupted last July with allegations that a Hutchinson, Minn., police officer gave marijuana to an activist involved in Occupy protests in Minneapolis. The officer was in the state's Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) program, in which officers had been seeking out willing subjects who were already impaired, and evaluated their impairment as part of training.
The allegations were that local and state officers went beyond asking impaired people if they would participate to supposedly giving pot to people in two different cases. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated and the Hennepin County attorney's office declined to file charges, saying the allegations had been disproved or could not otherwise be substantiated.
Still, changes announced Friday include moving to California the controversial field-testing portion of the training, which involves officers studying people who are high to see if they are impaired. The classroom portion of training will continue in Minnesota, but officers from here will join others from around the world who attend field training in California, which is certified in the training process.
Other changes include a new training plan for Minnesota participants and a supervisory structure that will provide more accountability, Col. Kevin Daly, chief of the State Patrol, and other officials said.
"The Drug Recognition Evaluator program has been effective at successfully prosecuting drug-impaired drivers for 22 years," Daly said. "With the improvements we are announcing today, the State Patrol will continue to provide DRE training to Minnesota law enforcement officers."
Unlike Minnesota, in California the presence of controlled substances in a person is considered a crime. So it's easier and faster for police there to find people who are willing to participate in the training of officers than it is in Minnesota, officials said.