Law enforcement gets extra training to combat drugged driving

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ERIE COUNTY, N.Y.– (WIVB) — Nearly one dozen law enforcement officers in Western New York are picking up more skills to keep the roadway safe.

Nearly two months after New York State legalized marijuana, 19 officers graduated training to become Drug Recognition Experts, adding to the total 334 members.

“Most officers in their academies receive just standard field sobriety testing for intoxicated drivers,” said Simon Biegasiewicz of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. “Officers who continue training, we go to what’s called ‘Drug Recognition Expert school.'”

The extended training is three weeks long. Niagara County Deputy Sheriff Justin Westmoreland is one of the newest DREs.

“I like keeping our roads safe, and I think with the legalization of cannabis it’s going to be heightened use,” Westmoreland said. “Already this year we’ve seen a lot of impaired drivers by drugs and cannabis more so than any other year I’ve been on the force.”

Biegasiewicz teaches DRE training. He said it’s likely we’ll continue to see more officers trained to detect whether someone is on drugs while driving.

These officers are not just part of the local sheriff’s offices either. There are now DREs in both state and local police departments, including Lancaster, North Tonawanda and West Seneca.

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