GOHS and GPSTC Extend DRE Training to South Georgia

BY LARRY MOONEY | DRE/SFST Instructor, Georgia Police Academy

Twelve law enforcement officers, primarily from the Southern portion of Georgia, assembled in Tifton on June 17, 2013, to take part in this year’s Drug Recognition Expert training school, hosted by instructors from the Georgia Public Safety Training Center.

Motivated to certify additional DREs in South Georgia, State DRE Coordinator James Harper has spent the last two years working closely with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to secure funding to host a third DRE School in addition to the two taught each year in March and August.
In the spring of 2013, Harper’s effort paid off, and a third DRE school session was added to the calendar for June.

Traditionally, prospective DRE candidates attend training at GPSTC in Forsyth, Ga. However, this session was held in Tifton in an effort to recruit law enforcement officers from agencies located in the southern part of the state.

“There are fewer DREs located in South Georgia than any other part of the state, primarily because many small departments can’t spare the manpower to send their folks to training for extended periods of time,” Harper said. “Bringing the training to their area made all the difference. Georgia is safer now because we have these additional certified DREs patrolling the roads in rural parts of the state.”  

Conducting DRE training off-site was extremely well received on the local level. One of the state’s newest DREs, Lt. Robert Owens of Ray City Police Department said, “Putting this training out on the road was a tremendous help to smaller agencies. I don’t know if I could have attended it if it weren’t close to home.”

Students also praised the format of the session, which was modified slightly from the traditional GPSTC offering.

“Typically, students attend training from 8 to 5 with instructors who leave when class concludes each day,” Harper said. “In Tifton, our instructors stayed on-site and were available to students for additional one-on-one instruction, which was a huge added benefit to this session.”

By the end of 2013 there will be 200 DREs in Georgia. This goal would not have been accomplished without the third DRE class addition this year.

“One of the goals I had when taking the DRE coordinator position was to have 200 certified DREs in this state,” Harper added. He commended his partners at GOHS for their support of his initiative to extend the DRE program to South Georgia.

“It goes without saying that there is a great deal of planning and preparation involved in conducting a resource-intensive course like the DRE School outside the confines of GPSTC,” Harper said. “But we have an excellent partner in GOHS; they have continued to support the program and now, more than ever, they have exhibited that support by supplying the funds necessary to conduct the third session. The end result is more DREs in more places across Georgia.”

GOHS has been committed to the DRE program since 1991 and is directly responsible for training nearly 200 DREs in Georgia. As the program grows, GOHS continues providing support by reaching out to all corners of the state with more training and supporting new ideas to improve the program. In fact, DRE candidates in training from the August 2013 class will be among the first from Georgia to complete their practical training in Arizona this year.One of the benefits of completing the training there is it reduces the amount of time an officer spends away from their agency. This will hopefully make the training more appealing to police administrators if they can have officers back working in a shorter period of time. With the continued support of GOHS and efforts from instructors committed to teaching, the future of the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program in Georgia looks bright.
After nine days of classroom training, one student emerged from the Tifton session’s group of students as the academic leader. Trooper First Class Chris Hosey of the Georgia State Patrol earned the Academic Leadership Award for the June 2013 DRE School session. TFC Hosey works out of the post in Thomasville, and has served with GSP for nearly two years.