Drug recognition officers in high demand


(WTNH) — Since 2011, Sergeant Matt Wood has been carrying around a bag of tools designed to help identify drug impaired drivers.

“We carry a blood pressure cuff. It’s one of the things we do is we take blood pressure,” said Wood.

Wood, who works for the Newtown Police Department, is one of 30 Drug Recognition Experts in the state of Connecticut. They are specially trained to spot the signs and symptoms of drugged driving.

“We’re seeing things, anything from typical signs of impairment to people who are so impaired that they’re almost passed out inside a vehicle,” said Wood.

Wood says the training to become a DRE is intense. It involves hours of classroom and real world training. He was one of the first seven officers to become certified in the state.

“When we think that alcohol is not what’s impairing the person or is not the only contributor to that I would be called in and I’d do a standardized detailed evaluation after the arrest has been made,” said Wood.

A DRE examination includes body temperature, pulse, and eye evaluations. Wood says heroin and other opiates cause the pupils to become very small while other drugs may cause them to enlarge.

“I’ve run into everything from opiates or heroin type drugs. I’ve had prescription medications, LSD and marijuana. Several different drugs,” said Wood.

Wood averages about seven DRE calls per year but he says other DRE’s with the State Police or in bigger cities respond to more.

“You’re looking for repeated violations. You’re looking for people who are unable to maintain their lane, who might be ignoring traffic signals, driving too fast or driving too slow,” said Wood.

With more cars on the roads than ever and drug use increasing at alarming rates, he and other DRE’s are committed to keeping the roadways safe.

“As the program catches on and more departments become aware of the DRE program and its benefits, I don’t think it’s gonna matter where you are. We’re gonna be utilized more and more,” said Wood.

DRE’s are required to be re-certified every two years.

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