Minn. drug recognition program suspended; 2 cops investigated - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Minnesota drug recognition program suspended; Trooper, officer investigated

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The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has suspended its drug recognition training program and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has launched a criminal investigation into claims that officers were giving drugs to OccupyMN protestors and releasing them in downtown Minneapolis. 

So far, Minnesota State Trooper Nick Otterson has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into his conduct during the DRE training, and a Hutchinson police officer is also being investigated after he was accused of providing marijuana to a potential subject. The Hutchinson officer is still on active duty, however.

DPS said in a statement Wednesday that an officer from another law enforcement agency allegedly witnessed the activity. The officer, who was also participating in drug recognition training, reported the incident to the Minnesota State Patrol.

Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman has called for an internal affairs investigation of the program to determine if any agency policies or procedures were violated.

"Training law enforcement officers to detect drug impairment helps to keep our roads safe, but we need to ensure that all participants follow guidelines and operate within the law," Dohman said. "I have suspended the drug recognition evaluator training pending the outcome of these investigations and until we revisit and review the curriculum for the program."

Last week, Occupy Minnesota protesters claimed officers picked them up, gave them drugs and watched them get high. The protesters first made the allegations public in a YouTube video, saying officers from out-state came to downtown Minneapolis and asked them to take part in the drug training program.

FOX 9 caught up with one of those protesters at the Occupy protest on Peavey Plaza. When asked whether the officer supplied him with drugs, Michael Bounds replied, "Yes."

"They gave me a quarter of marijuana in exchange for me to tell them what's going on with Occupy," he said.

On Wednesday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak issued a fiery statement about the allegations, saying, "I never could've imagined that something like this could happen in Minneapolis -- or that it could happen without consulting the mayor and police chief. It's just plain wrong."

When the allegations first surfaced, agency officials were skeptical of the claims.

"We haven't found any evidence or any indication any illegal drugs were provided to anyone," State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske told FOX 9 last week. "Other than allegations made in the video, which were not supported by any video evidence, we did not find anything to substantiate any of those allegations."

The drug evaluation and classification (DEC) training program shows officers how to detect and remove drug-impaired drivers from the road. An officer who completes this training is certified as a drug recognition evaluator.

Currently 48 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada participate in the DEC program.

Minnesota's program has been managed by the State Patrol since its inception in 1991. There are 197 DRE officers in Minnesota representing 92 agencies.

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