Pubdate: Thu, 24 Jul 2014
Source: Barrie Advance, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2014 Metroland Printing, Publishing and Distributing
Author: Janis Ramsay
Page: 24


Const. Chris Allport is quick to judge your footwork, balance and 
hand movements.

But he's not a local dance instructor, he's a Barrie Police drug 
recognition evaluator.

And he's watching your every move.

Allport has been a constable for 10 years and delved into the world 
of drug impairment in 2010.

As one of three drug recognition evaluators on the force, Allport 
said the job is challenging for many reasons.

One of the biggest issues right now is training.

"A lot of officers aren't able to recognize drug impairment. They're 
not trained to know what the body does with drugs in it and they may 
attribute (a driver's) behaviour to a medical issue," Allport said.

It also doesn't help that marijuana use appears to be on the rise and 
prescription medications such as fentanyl are pain management tools 
found in many medicine cabinets.

In fact, Allport said, aside from marijuana, he sees more people high 
on analgesics like morphine, heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl.

"We're not just pulling people over who are buying drugs off the 
street," he said. "There are people who aren't feeling well and have 
taken an extra pill. They're impaired on their way to work. I find 
people who are self-medicating over what the doctor has prescribed. 
That's an issue."

He knows there are even more who aren't caught.

According to the Ministry of the Attorney General, there is no 
Criminal Code driving offence specific to operating a vehicle under 
the influence of illegal drugs.

"Section 253 of the Code applies to both impairment by drugs or 
alcohol, or a combination of drugs and alcohol," spokesperson Heather 
Visser said.

She added the Attorney General's office doesn't track the number of 
people convicted of drug-impaired driving in the province.

Allport said officers are able to arrest anyone who is showing 
unusual behaviour behind the wheel, even if alcohol isn't detected.

"It's up to me to determine what kind of drugs they are on, based on 
an evaluation."

Allport studied drug impairment techniques in Kingston and Phoenix, 
Arizona, where inmates on a day pass were tested when they returned to prison.

"It was interesting to see first-hand how it all comes together."

Officers look for seven different types of drugs - antidepressants, 
inhalants like gasoline or nail polish, dissociate anesthetics like 
PCP or ketamine (Special K), cannabis, narcotic analgesics, central 
nervous system stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine and 
hallucinogens like ecstacy.

In general, each drug creates its own physical reaction.

Allport's tests can help determine which type of drug is affecting his suspect.

The old-school Standard Field Sobriety Test still does the trick most 
of the time, he said, adding when it comes to drug impairment, it's 
better to watch someone over a seven-minute period.

The field test includes the follow-the-finger evaluation as an 
officer watches what your eyes are doing.

"Their eyes are telling us everything," he said.

There's also a walk-the-line balance test, which includes taking a 
specific number of steps, pivoting around and walking in the opposite 
direction - all without raising your arms.

The final test is a leg stand test, where the driver is asked to hold 
one foot six-inches off the ground for 30 seconds, again without 
raising his arms.

"If we determine a person needs further testing, they are brought 
back to the station."

Once there, Allport takes your pulse three different times, checks 
your pupil dilation and muscle tone, examines the inside of your 
mouth to see the condition of your teeth and gums and asks you to 
touch the tip of your nose with left and right fingers.

At the end of that evaluation, Allport can order a urine or blood 
sample for a toxicology test, which takes a few months before it is returned.

As a police officer, he's concerned Canada is loosening its medical 
marijuana laws to allow companies to mass produce and sell weed to 
anyone with a doctor's prescription.

Recreational marijuana use has been illegal in Canada since 1923, but 
according to a 2012 Health Canada study, 42 per cent of Canadians 
over age 15 - about 12 million people - admitted to having tried marijuana.

- - with files from Torstar News Service
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom