More than 250 police officers in Georgia have been trained as "drug recognition experts" (DREs), a type of training that is supposed to make it possible for cops to determine that someone is under the influence of drugs. As drunk driving arrests have dipped, 11 Alive in Atlanta reports, drugged driving arrests are up, but as an investigation by the television station shows, and common sense might dictate, such training is liable to rack up false positives.
11 Alive spoke to three victims of such false positives, all attributed to just one Cobb County officer, T.T. Carroll, who was given a silver medal last year for 90 DUI arrests.
Katelyn Ebner, a bartender, was pulled over on her way home from work and told Carroll she had not been drinking. After passing a number of tests to detect alcohol consumption, Carroll asked her the last time she smoked marijuana. Ebner explained that she had never smoked marijuana and could take a drug test if necessary.
Carroll told Ebner she was giving him "several, several indicators" that she's smoked marijuana.
"Okay, so when I do a drug test, I'll be free to go, correct?" Ebner asked Carroll. Seems reasonable enough.
Carroll answered: "You're going to jail, ma'am. Okay? I don't have a magical drug test that I can give you right now."
However, as the 11 Alive reporter, Brendan Keefe, noted to Ebner, "he just did the 'magical drug test' that resulted in your arrest."
Ebner filed an internal affairs complaint after passing a drug test, but said Cobb County investigators insisted "the test results come back wrong all the time." She said investigators told her a urine test would have come back positive. Ebner says she took a urine test, which came back negative, herself.
The Cobb County Police Department would not let 11 Alive speak to Carroll, but commanders defended him, standing behind the three arrests mentioned by the station (none of which resulted in charges), and re-iterating their belief that their drug recognition experts can be more accurate than physical tests.
Carroll was promoted last year, with his supervisors claiming in his evaluation most of his arrests ended in convictions or pleas (the lawyer for at least one of the victims 11 Alive spoke to recommended a plea deal despite their client insisting she hever smoked marijuana) and calling him their "go-to officer when it comes to DUI-drugs." According to 11 Alive, the evaluation did not mention the 3 arrests they reported on.
Read the whole story and watch the dash cam footage at 11 Alive, which is also seeking more Georgians with first-hand accounts of dealing with "drug recognition experts".