MN Drug Recognition Program Suspended, InvestigatedMINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A program designed to train police how to spot if someone is using drugs has been suspended while authorities investigate claims that officers gave people illegal drugs and incentives to participate, the Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.
By: Amy Forliti, Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A program designed to train police how to spot if someone is using drugs has been suspended while authorities investigate claims that officers gave people illegal drugs and incentives to participate, the Department of Public Safety said Wednesday.
DPS Commissioner Mona Dohman said a Hutchinson police officer is accused of giving marijuana to a potential subject and is now under criminal investigation. Dohman said another officer saw the incident and reported it. A separate internal investigation also is under way to determine whether any policies were violated.
"Training law enforcement officers to detect drug impairment helps to keep our roads safe, but we need to ensure that all participants follow guidelines and operate within the law," Dohman said in a statement. She added the training program is suspended pending the investigations and "until we revisit and review the curriculum for the program."
Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Col. Matt Langer said later Wednesday that a state trooper had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into his conduct during the training.
The state patrol did not elaborate on the allegations against Trooper Nick Otterson because of the ongoing investigation.
Just days before the incident with the Hutchinson officer was reported, activists and members of Occupy Minnesota posted a video online in which several people said that police had either offered or given them illegal drugs.
The drug evaluation and classification program trains officers on how to detect and remove impaired drivers from the road. It started in Minnesota in 1991 and 197 officers from 92 agencies are currently certified as "drug recognition evaluators," DPS said.
The drug recognition training includes nine days of classroom work where officers learn about drug categories and physiology. After the classroom training, the officers perform 12 evaluations on people who are impaired by drugs. These volunteer subjects are monitored and typically recruited from the community, according to a news release from DPS.
A week ago, members of the Occupy Minnesota movement and others claimed police picked them up at various locations and offered them illegal drugs and incentives to participate in the program. The subjects were dropped off at Peavey Plaza, where Occupy protesters have been gathering.
Occupy Minnesota member Osha Karow said he was happy to hear that an officer came forward and reported the incident instead of trying to cover it up, but upset that authorities initially denied activists' claims, despite what he called "indisputable evidence" collected on video.
"We're very excited that an officer decided to tell the truth and do the right thing," Karow said. "Citizens have the power to make a change by investigating something and making it public."
He said members of the Occupy movement are calling for an independent investigation.
Authorities did not release the name of the Hutchinson officer facing criminal investigation. Hutchinson Police Chief Daniel Hatten had no comment because of the ongoing case, but said the officer is still on the job until the review is completed.
Forty-eight states, the District of Columbia and Canada participate in the drug evaluation and classification program. It started in Los Angeles in the 1970s when police realized that people arrested for drunken driving weren't always under the influence of alcohol. Authorities then came up with procedures to recognize when people were impaired by other substances.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.