Drug Users Recruited To Help Police With Hands-On Training

By Lindsey Seavert, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Police can easily pull over and pick up drunk drivers. But pinpointing drivers on drugs is another story.

When an erratic driver doesn’t show any trace of alcohol on a breathalyzer, police need expert training to tell if they are high on something else. That’s why police recently requested a whole new set of recruits — drug users.

Outside the Minneapolis Police Fifth Precinct at the corner of West 31st Street and Nicollet Avenue South, the sunset signals the beginning of a busy night for police patrolling Minnesota streets. But a select group of officers aren’t chasing crime on this night. Instead, the potential danger has come to them.

Inver Grove Heights Officer Chris Wegner is about to get some of the most valuable hands-on training of his career, dealing with people high on drugs.

A girl we’ll call Christina is helping Wegner train. That’s not her real name and she isn’t in trouble, but at the moment, she’s under the influence. She was a passenger in a car police pulled over, and agreed to help with training.

Wegner checks her vitals while she starts singing. It’s just the beginning of a 45-minute evaluation.

“Hmm, am I supposed to be closing my eyes?” she said.

She won’t tell him yet what drug has caused her to become sleepy, what’s taken her coordination and slurred her speech.

“What I want you to do is follow the tip of my finger with your eyes only and not your head. You understand?” Wegner asks.

Christina nearly takes a tumble during a test where she’s asked to hold out her foot and count. But she’s not alone. She’s one of many volunteers teaching police a lesson.

“It helps me identify people that are impaired on things other than alcohol,” Wegner said.

Officers from all over the state have come to Minneapolis’ Fifth Precinct for two weeks of intense training that will certify them as one of Minnesota’s Drug Recognition Experts.

“It’s not your typical police-subject interaction,” said Sgt. Don Marose of the Minnesota State Patrol, who trains officers for the state’s DRE program.

He said the program is nationally recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and has been in Minnesota since 1991.  Marose said since then, 190 officers at 85 Minnesota agencies are drug-recognition trained officers at their departments.

Marose said when the State Patrol needed a real-life laboratory, the Minnesota Aids Project, Needle Exchange program, helped out.

The organization put out an ad to its clients, many who use drugs. It asked them to show up under the influence — and get rewards and incentives in return.

But those incentives aren’t what first comes to mind, nothing illegal, said Marose.

“We will run them through the drive-thru, get them something to eat. Sometimes that is the extent of what they have had to eat. One of the subjects when we asked him when he ate, he said sometime yesterday,” Marose said. “Certainly we aren’t going to give them money because we know probably where that is going to go right back to. So, we will do what they like to do, they will ask for a pack of cigarettes, or say hey, can you buy me a bottle of pop?”

Christina said she came for another reason — to support a friend, who was in trouble after driving under the influence.

“Trying to do my civic duty,” she said.

And by now, Officer Wegner’s tests give him a pretty good guess of what drug she’s on.

“Looking at initial signs, I would say cannabis marijuana,” he said.

Christina admits he’s right.

“I don’t do it that often, if I am going to do it, I might as well help someone when I do it,” Christina said.

Another man admits to being on prescription drugs, a second man was brought in after being caught with cocaine. But, other recent and willing volunteers came in high on the African drug khat.

“Something people don’t realize, drug users are everyday citizens, essentially. It’s not the people you stereotypically think of as a drug user,” said Marose.

Drug users bring a dose of reality to this new force. Officers can now make sure all Minnesotans are under the influence of safer streets.

“It’s definitely fun,” Wegner said. “I mean, it’s interesting and something new and something different than we get to use as a tool in law enforcement.”

Marose said it’s a helpful way to know what to look for.

“I think every officer in here can probably tell you, until we actually saw the people that we were dealing with, we had no idea what we were doing,” he said. “We teach them for two weeks what they will see, but this is reality. Not everybody you will see will be a textbook case. You can’t replace this kind of training. We can watch videos or tell them what you are going to see but until you actually see it.”

The State Patrol said it’s not illegal to be drunk or high in Minnesota — unless you’re causing problems.

As part of the training program, they only arrested people who possessed drugs or drove under the influence, violating the law. But they still used those people for training, as well.

  • Gagged

    Not a lawyer, but I thought being under the influence of THC (pot) was specifically exempted under MN statue 169A.20 subdivision 1 paragraph 7 (https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=169A.20&year=2010)…not gonna get a DWI conviction on Christina, maybe a careless driving. Why would you feature pot plants as the lead in to the story, maybe the reporter should go back to reporting school and learn the meaning of background???

    • http://theworkingclassprojectdotcom.wordpress.com Will Sawyer

      Don’t you think that the reporter had nothing to do with the story being online? There is probably a person who does all the imgaes and story uploading.

    • ...

      I dont have the time to explain the whole thing but long story short… yes you can still be convicted of DWI.

      • MIke

        You might get a DUI, but I don’t believe you would get a DWI.

        • Steve

          DUI and DWI are the same thing. The acronyms are used interchangeably. Ohio uses the term OWI (operating while intoxicated).

          • Edification

            Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and driving with ability impaired (DWAI) are interchangeable but Driving while intoxicated is a more severe crime. They are not the same thing. Intoxication is considered to be of the level that a person is legally drunk. Impaired is someone that is in an altered state but has a certain level of control.

    • Smarter than Gagged!


      It is apparent you are not a lawyer or smart. 169A.20 sub 1 para 3 covers all hazardous substances that impair the ability to drive. Including marijuana. Para. 7 simlpay states a person need not be impaired but by simply possessing a schedule I or II substance, like heroine, in your body is “illegal per se.”

      • jim

        You mean heroin. A heroine would be a female hero.

    • Mary

      Gagged, you are wrong. They are not exempt. What the statute is specifically saying that you automatically get charged if you have anything in your system besides THC. Reason being that THC stays in your system for up to a month or more. Just because you have THC in your system doesn’t mean that you are impared. Remember the statute is DWI, Driving While Impaired. THC found in pot is a controlled substance and if you are under the influence (showing signs of imparement) due to just smoking up, you can be charged. Read the whole statute before jumping to conclusions Gagged.

      • Clint

        Curiously enough similar statutes (such as one in Georgia) making it an automatic violation for merely having THC in your system have been ruled unconstitutional because there is no rational basis between the presence of THC in the bloodstream and the laws intent of making the roads safer (its a violation of equal protection, I believe) . If you are actually high while driving you got a problem, but if you were smoking yesterday and have some residual THC left in your system (which is not actively affecting you) then you’d probably be fine, or at least you could make the constitutional argument which has worked in other States. Need to check your own local laws of course.

      • Maker

        Exactly. This is the purpose of a Drug Recognition Expert. They are able to determine if a person is 1. Impaired and 2. What they are impaired by. I am a DRE and we are able to not only single out one category of drug a person is on, but multiple types.

        • HOORAH

          what if some one is just sleepy? or on cancer medication other than pot…..? or on a regimented dose of prescription drugs that are not being abused???

          • B

            Actually, most of those conditions can qualify as impaired driving. I’m not so sure on the sleepy scenario. I know the police have made an attempt in recent years to make people aware of the dangers of driving while drowsy (the real term they use), but I’m not sure if any states have passed laws regarding such impairment. I can say for certain that laws regulating commercial drivers require a certain amount of sleep. As far as the other drugs, it doesn’t matter if you have a prescription or not, you can be arrested for DWI if you are driving under the influence. Cannabis has been recognized by several states as a cancer medicine (among other conditions) and several have made laws regarding the legal level of THC in a driver’s bloodstream. Of course, we have not established a real equivalency between alcohol intoxication and cannabis inebriation, so the laws are rather draconian and run the risk of catching people who are not a danger or who haven’t even used in the last couple weeks, but the laws do exist. As far as other prescription drugs – the fact that they are prescription does not exempt you from driving responsibly. If you have a prescription for xanax or a painkiller, or even a blood pressure med, go get it and look at the labels. Do you see the labels warning that these medicines may make you drowsy, may inhibit your ability to drive or operate machinery, and that you should wait until you are familiar with the effects of the medicine to try any of these activities? These labels mean that these medications can render you too intoxicated to drive. Also, most of the prescription drugs are covered in these programs. Remember, xanax, hydrocodone, oxycontin, morphine, and ritalin, all popular recreational drugs, are also prescription drugs. And yes, you can become too impaired to drive, especially by pills, without abusing the medicine. Remember, when your doc prescribes painkillers, most of the time, they give you enough to get yourself addicted.

    • Dane

      Did you nitwits not read the whole story. Christina was the passenger.

      • Mendy7952

        Dane, I have been reading all of these posts WAITING to see if anybody noticed that Christina was NOT the driver in this case! You are the only literate person among all of these EXPERTS. Really LOL.

    • BadlyBlownFuse

      Definitely not a lawyer…MN Statute 169A.20 only concerns DRIVING WHILE IMPAIRED. The article only mentions BEING high (example: at home, or in the pool, fishing, etc.) It’s illegal to POSSESS but not illegal to have USED…in other words you can get caught being high but not holding.

    • Ben Franklin

      Legalize drugs…this is getting ridiculous and a MAJOR WASTE OF MONEY. Its especially dumb when you consider half of America is on LEGAL prescription drugs. Time to end the war on drugs, reign in the cops and stop wasting billions crippling our economy. The violence will end too no matter what the idiots who are making money off of private prisons and fake security tell you.

      • Mendy7952

        Did you know that almost everybody I have ever met who was for legalization of drugs was a total stoner who didn’t care about much of anything other than being high? Just thought I would share that with you.

        • Rex from SLP

          Good for you Mendy7952

        • Maggie Ahrens

          Then you have a limited circle of friends, kiddo. Either that, or everyone who does use and knows you is aware that you’re narrow-minded so they keep it on the down-low.

          LOTS of people smoke marijuana – some once a week, some once a month, and some once a day. For millions of reasons, not just to “get baked and giggle”

          It is good for anxiety, insomnia, anorexia, and chronic pain. It is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and there are promising studies as to how it *might* fight tumors.

          Do a little research, get out in the world, and learn that the “stoner stereotype” is exactly that – a stereotype.

  • Rex from SLP

    This is some BS right here!!

  • Mike Hawk

    I totally agree with Rex from SLP!!!

  • Hank Warren

    Useless cops and their useless ‘experts’, yet another violation of our rights. Add it to the list of gov’t violations of our right:
    They violate the 1st Amendment by placing protesters in cages, banning books like “America Deceived II” and censoring the internet.
    They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns.
    They violate the 4th and 5th Amendment by molesting airline passengers.
    They violate the entire Constitution by starting undeclared wars for foreign countries.
    Impeach Obama and sweep out the Congress.
    (Last link of Banned Book):

    • Mike Burns

      Whoa Hank Warren, Don’t get your undies up in a bunch…..Take a chill pill….. Get over that speeding ticket you got when you were seventeen…..

      • Mendy7952

        I think he IS 17..

    • eastside_evil

      Impeach Obama? After that long rant of the ways you’ve been wronged, the conclusion you came to is Barack Obama is to blame for your lot in life? Wow.

    • Clint

      So you thought the best way to demonstrate that a book had been banned was to send us to a web site where the book is available right now? Let me guess – you wrote this book and couldn’t otherwise get folks to shell out money for it?

      You’d get alot further by making arguments and backing them up with fact. When were protestors placed in cages? When were guns confiscated? When has anyone been molested at an airport without facing disciplinary measures? Please, do tell.

    • Jan Nallick Rangel

      You know I hear France has some openings if you don’t like the US. IDIOT

  • Nic

    I think we now officially live in the Country of COMMUNIST RED NECK COPS. If the passenger is high, who cares??? What business is it of yours or the cops???? LEAVE THEM ALONE.

    • Realist

      You clearly didn’t read the whole story.

  • Amy Alkon

    How can anybody be high on khat? It needs to be chewed within a relatively short time after being picked. (See Elmore Leonard’s Djibouti, which my boyfriend researched.)

  • Amy Alkon

    Oh, and per Wikipedia, it’s “a flowering plant native to tropical East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.” Do we really think it’s growing in tropical Minnesota?

    • B

      No, it is not grown in Minnesota, but it is imported (and is not a legal commodity in America) by East African natives living in America. I read a few articles on khat use by African immigrant populations in America a few years back. Apparently, Customs and Border Patrol search for the stuff. Your defense of khat – that it needs to be chewed recently after being picked (I assume you were referring more to quantity needed to feel ‘high’, correct me if I’m wrong) could also be stated in defense of the coca plant. That’s PLANT, not the concentrated extract from the coca leaf, otherwise known as cocaine. The coca plant itself does not produce a real high, and there is no real reason to ban the plant itself, especially in light of its long history of indigenous use. Khat is pretty much the same; its use is largely restricted to populations which have used it culturally for centuries, but it is a stimulant and contains psychoactive components. I have a feeling that people can do the same thing with khat that they have with coca – break down the plant matter and extract the psychoactive alkaloids contained within it. I’ll bet that a biochem major with some time on his hands would have no problem producing something very similar to cocaine from khat.

  • John

    BS I have NEVER encountered a person high on Marijuana with “slurred” speech and acting drunk!! Unless it was mixed with another drug. Humans are LAME when it comes to drugs. Alcohol is the most DANGEROUS drug out there! I’m pretty sure most drug users had alcohol before “other” drugs. We should say Alcohol is a “gateway” drug. Thus, alcohol leads to drug abuse. It is all about MONEY not the drug!

    • Rex from SLP

      Very true. I’ve never heard anyone slur their words while high on pot.

    • Kay

      So true! I agree with Bill Hicks on this one. He made the great point that whenever someone is belligerent or hostile while “under the influence”, they’re never high, they’re drunk, you never see stoned people fighting or killing people, but you see plenty of drunks doing it. It IS all about money. Research the Opium trade in Afghanistan. U.S. soldiers have been protecting the poppy fields, which prior to U.S. intervention only produced 10% of the heroin in the world, now it’s increased to 93%, since the military has been there. There’s plenty of articles on it. I read one on BBC News. On top of that, people are drugged up left and right on dangerous and addictive prescription medications. I see no difference between any of these substances. A drug is a drug. Anyone who thinks different is lying to themselves. Drugs can do wonderful things, but they can also be very harmful, and it’s up to adults to figure that out. I don’t think the gov’t has the right to tell us which ones are ok. Like I would trust them anyway, lol.

  • eastside_evil

    Me either, John. It’s Reefer Madness all over again.

  • Fanny Forbes Franklen

    If this doesn’t finally make you see how degenerate government is, nothing probably will. The mental deficient goons that are employed by government couldn’t discern the sun from the moon. These are people that are paid with others wealth that is extracted through taxes at the threat of force and death if you don’t pay. They are the degenerates.


    • Iconoclast

      Cub is having a sale on Tin-Foil if you need a new hat.

      • Gibbs Bentley

        Sounds like one of the aforementioned mental deficient government goons. That line stopped working in the 90’s and shows everyone that not only are you totally out of touch, outdated and lame, but you are a degenerate too.

        http://911essentials.com says good luck at your treason trial

        • Alex

          Yeah, what a nut. She probably thinks Building 7 wasn’t hit by a third plane and that it just collapsed into its footprint for no good reason. These lousy nut-jobs need to be tried for treason for asking too many questions. Toe the line, Fanny Forbes, and shut up. You’re not supposed to question what your government tells you. You’re free to agree — not disagree. Got it?

  • Iconoclast

    Well, as long as the driving is truly impaired. Most people who know what they are talking about will tell you they would rather be on the road with with someone smoking pot than someone who has been drinking. So much less dangerous. Heck the person may not even have the motivation to decide to drive anyway.

    • John

      I wouldn’t trust my life – or that of my teenage drivers – or that of my loved ones – to a pot head. Just sayin’.

      • Ed

        John, You’d be surprised how many people drive while stoned

        • Rex from SLP

          Really, MN needs to legalize it, tax the hell out of it, and pay off this $5 billion defecit so we can go on woth our lives. I’m sick of all the same old arguments that is a “gateway” drug when most people out there had their first beer before they had their first toke of weed.
          Besides, I thought MN was a progressive state. We already mimic California in so many other ways, why not this????

      • eastside_evil

        John – You already do. You just don’t know it.

  • NEbigweirdo

    How many people will die in Minnesota because of alcohol this year? How many innocent family’s? Yet everyone stands by like sheep awaiting slaughter. If you get caught drinking and driving you loose your driving privileges for LIFE..work on that law. Everyone under the age of 35 today understands where resources should go. It just takes time for the “dumbs” to get out of the way. Those cops should be out fighting crime not in this useless fake coffee break.

  • Ryan Partington

    This sentence is appalling. Nobody has any standards anymore: “We can watch videos or tell them what you are going to see but until you actually see it.””

  • freddy got the finger

    F**K the POlice leaglize them all.

  • Mike Burns

    This is why legislation is pending to revoke the driver license of people applying for medical marijuana. If you are high you cannot fly….

    • McWayne

      I didn’t realize having a driver’s license allowed you to operate aircraft.

      Ohhh you were rhyming. I get it.

      You’re a fool.

  • rjligier

    She’s on AMNIEN which mimics drunken behavior and blackouts. Occasionally you’ll find idiots that do rufies for fun.

  • Ed

    As if Cops have never done drugs before? Bunch of hypocrites

    • Joe Blow

      A+ and SPOT ON. Talk to ANY licensed family counselor, psychologist,etc- the WIFE BEATER and weekend DRUNK club #1 is the COPS. They “blow off steam” by getting off shift and getting SH T faced at the local watering hole. About 99% get a “Free” pass from their “buddies” when caught DUI. Still- you have about ONE article daily- in which the HYPOCRITE police chief, or Mayor or some other sh t bag “cop” is pulled over for DUI- usually after having given some big speech to the public about why they need to ARREST more people and shake down more people for “safety” etc. We recently locked our TOTALLY corrupt “sheriff” up recently- FINALLY, when EVERYONE with half a brain knew for YEARS he was a Stalin like, self dealing, THUG and PIG. But man- did he look good in public with his crisp uniform and giving big speeches and working up the ladder to “higher” office- the guy was making about $500K per year. They caught him on tape “self dealing” with a POS “developer” and known criminal- every other word was the F word, they were laughing openly about how they could shake money out of the “little people” and use the sheriff’s office for power and gain. The “rule” is – if you caught ONE, then their is CERTAINLY 1000’s if not 10,000’s more out their JUST LIKE HIM- he was just stupid enough and brazen enough to get caught- like ole Senator Duke Cunningham- the war “hero” and Mr. “America”- a total mafioso SH T bag lifer in congress.

  • http://www.ticklethewire.com/2011/05/09/atf-agent-jay-dobyns-speaks-out-about-fast-and-furious-and-his-problems-with-atf/ Tickle The Wire » ATF Agent Jay Dobyns Rips ATF About “Fast and Furious” and His Problems With the Agency

    […] Drug Users Recruited to Help With Hands-On Training (WCCO)  Print This Post […]

  • Joe Blow

    So, now high school grads, drop outs and GED GOONS known as “cops” are going to be so called “expert” medical evaluators based on a couple of hours of crash course “training”. ONE more step towards the almighty POLICE STATE. Read DOCTOR Ron Paul’s white paper, “Are we living in a POLICE STATE?”. If you can’t figure it out- you don’t deserve to live in a FREE country. This will get booted in the courts in about TWO seconds if we still have America left- and not the “new” AMERIKA. Just the cops out trolling for “revenue” for the FILTHY politicians. The ENTIRE US congress is bunch of RAGING drunks, druggers, fornicators, mental patients, deviants, and FREAKS- but that’s all cool. They got their finger on the frickin NUKE button- but no problems. They listed be loaded on princess Pelosi’s MASSIVE, tax payer funded PRIVATE SET OF JETS, just the BOOZE LIST- for just a couple of day Junket- was in the $100’s of dollars and was enough to keep a Marine Company SH^T faced DRUNK for a month- and she at the time was a few steps down from the Presidency and a MAJOR “decision” maker in US policy- the ENTIRE CONGRESS, all staffers, the President, the cabinet, ALL military advisers to the prez, etc- should ALL have to blow a BREATHALIZER before they enter ANY “work” environment or conduct ANY work or make ANY decision on our behalf- it should be monitored by a citizens, independent neutral 3rd party. THAT is what is required when you don’t have a POLITBURO- if WE the citizens have to live under these STALINIST police state laws- then BY GOD, the politician should be subject FIRST and foremost to same, said laws. Our founding fathers considered arrest, the removal and incarceration of a FREE person- as the ULTIMATE act of government force- yet now it is done willy nilly for almost ANY reason- not theft or murder or violent crime- but cause some trained APE found a 1/3 inch “roach” in some guy’s ash tray- for THAT they rip his car apart, throw him over the hood, search him, violate him, taze him, whatever. Our founding fathers grew their own tobacco and “other” medicinal “substances”, brewed their own beer and whiskey, etc and were FREE and would have SHOT (as in with a BULLET) any man violating their private property or private PERSON without due cause, proper legal cause, a warrant, etc- and the courts would have accepted 100% their right to DEFEND themselves against undo harassment by the STATE against their PRIVATE property or person. JACK BOOTS coming after you for EVERYTHING now- talking on your fricking cell phone is now a CRIME- it started with a $20 fine in most states- but now is about a $250 “ticket” in most states- well SHAZAM- good thing we are all “safe” from those EVIL phone KILLERS. But look at the Drudge headline today about our WIDE open southern border- a virtual WAR zone that the govt. is doing NOTHING about- so the FREE citizens are shaken down NAZI style on a daily basis for “safety” and “security” – while the thugs, gangs, criminals and politicians run rough shod with impunity- sounds like ALL the CLASSIC makings of a POLICE STATE if you have more than a 3rd grade education in actual world history.

    • Bill Jackson

      You need to learn how to go with the flow like the rest of the country. Chill out with some “American Idol” or an incredibly violent or perverse video game. You obviously read and think too much. You’re crazier than our founding fathers.

    • Jan Nallick Rangel

      Don’t go away mad – just g o away you paranoid wierdo

      • buttstains12

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHA you rulle dude

  • Not Dave

    This sentence puzzles me, “The State Patrol said it’s not illegal to be drunk or high in Minnesota — unless you’re causing problems. If a person is high from pot, they have THC in the system right? How does that not constitute possession? The presence of the illegal drug can be scientifically proven to be in someone’s system or not, so why isn’t it illegal to be high on pot regardless of what one is doing?

    • eastside_evil

      Why SHOULD it be illegal?

    • Rex from SLP

      Shut up!


    Far Out Man!! I only smoked it 2 times man, no 22 times man!

  • sol keslar

    Wouldn’t it be funny if the officer thanked her kindly, spun her around, cuffed her, whilst giving her an abner luima? Then stated “that’s why hey call t dope!…dope.” maybe not, just let my mind escape for a few seconds

    • Mark

      What’s wrong with you? You should never want another human to go through what Abner Louima went through. Secondly, you should never encourage the police to engage in such behavior. For those who don’t know, this person, Sol Keslar, is suggesting that the police should have sodomized this young lady with a toilet plunger. We need to root out behavior like this in America. How would you like it if someone in your family was treated in this manner by the police?

  • http://thedailyconservative.net/2011/05/10/police-recruit-drug-users-to-help-them-determine-signs-of-high-suspects/ Police Recruit Drug Users To Help Them Determine Signs Of High Suspects… | The Daily Conservative

    […] (Third column, 8th story, link) […]

  • sol keslar

    another thing… what a sell out. Civic duty? it’s called being a STOOL PIDGEON. she should be banned from the activity.

  • jim

    I hate our government, and I wish they would stay the he ll out of my life!!!

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