News / Calgary

Tests for drugged drivers on decline as specially trained Calgary cops dwindle

Fewer suspected high drivers are being tested as Calgary’s team of drug-recognition experts continues to be plagued by attrition.

In 2014, only three evaluations have been done on motorists suspected of sitting high behind the wheel.

That’s down from a total of 11 completed tests last year and 23 in 2012.

The dip in the drug-impairment tests comes as the number of DRE agents has fallen to 5 from 20 over the same span — one more than the Red Deer Mounties who patrol a much smaller population.

Edmonton, for further comparison, has 20 DRE officers who have  conducted 28 evaluations to date.

“I don’t think drug-impaired driving is going down by any stretch of the imagination,” said Cst. Andrew Fairman, one of the city’s last remaining drug-recognition experts.

Asked why Calgary has seen its DRE ranks dwindle over the past, Fairman explained many of his colleagues have been promoted to office jobs or plain-clothes duty where it’s much more difficult to answer the police radio calls for test.

“Guys just let their certification expire because we have to maintain that certification by doing evaluations over a two-year period, he said. “There’s a minimum number and there’s ongoing training that has to occur.”

Fairman also noted federal funding has dried up, although the province did commit a one-time grant of $160,000 in 2012 to support an expert co-ordinator.

In September, Fariman hopes to send a few more officers to Edmonton to be certified on the 12-step tests that are typically needed to lay criminal charges.

Some have called on Ottawa to move away from the DRE system all together.

Western University law professors Erika Chamberlain and Robert Solomon, recently declared it unwieldy and hard to use in a study done for MADD Canada.

“The DRE process is cumbersome, expensive, and readily susceptible to legal challenge, and thus appears to be of limited utility in criminal prosecutions,” the researchers said.

Police chief Rick Hanson has previously called on the federal government to enter ‘the 20th century” by approving roadside devices that detect street drugs such as pot, cocaine and crack.

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