Despite ongoing flooding in Texas, approximately 40 adult and juvenile probation officers braved storms to attend the newest training offered by the Impaired Driving Initiatives on how to detect drug and alcohol impairment among their clients, families and friends in an effort to keep Texas roads safer.
The latest initiative, funded by the Texas Department of Transportation, is Drug Impairment Training for Texas Community Supervision and Parole Officers (DITTCSPO). Held at the Angelina College Commerce Center in Livingston, the program trained representatives from adult and juvenile probation in Angelina, Polk, Hardin, Waller, and Walker counties on how to observe and test for impairment. The program is available to all Texas parole and probation officers free of charge and is offered on a regional basis to groups of 30 or more.
The six hour training session provides information on the seven categories of illegal and prescription drugs that alter perceptions and behavior, reducing an individual’s ability to function properly. In addition to providing photos and handouts about the drugs, the program explains the different signs and symptoms that will be exhibited by users. The seven drug categories include central nervous system depressants, central nervous system stimulants, hallucinogens, dissociative anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, inhalants and cannabis.
“It was really good and offered more than the typical alcohol information,” said Chad Cryer, Unit Supervisor at Austin County CSCD. “It helped point out things I should be looking for.”
Sgt. Susan Cotter, Drug Recognition Expert instructor, trainer for DITTCSPO, and supervisor for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Accident Division, who is actively involved in DWI enforcement, was the instructor for the session.
“There were no deathless days on Texas highways in 2013, and Nov. 7, 2000 was the last day that no one was killed on Texas roads,” she said. “In 2013, there were 973 fatal crashes involving impaired drivers, with 1,089 fatalities. In one week in Harris County, nine people were killed in DWI crashes, including a family of four and a family of five.”
The new probation and parole initiative joins several other training programs available through the Impaired Driving Initiatives at Sam Houston State University, which train law enforcement officers, school employees and Texas employers on how to recognize signs of impairment. Sam Houston State University’s Impaired Driving Initiatives program has been working to make Texas roads safer for the last 10 years.
The new program will target offenders in the community, many of them convicted of drug offenses. In 2011, there were about 141,000 offenders in Texas prisons, 107,000 offenders on parole, and 413,000 offenders on some sort of community supervision. Thirty percent of parolees and 16 percent of the probationers were convicted on drug-related offenses.
“Eight out of 10 convicted offenders reside in our communities – living in our neighborhoods, working in our communities and driving to and from their place of work and recreational activities,” said Cecelia Marquart, Director of the Impaired Driving Initiatives.
In addition to helping parole and probation officers recognize the signs and symptoms of impairment, the program assists departments in developing or improving resource guides for drug policies, programs and practices within the organization as well as discusses traffic safety to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related crashes or fatalities.
“The primary goal of this program is to educate community supervision and parole officers on traffic safety. specifically the potential for impaired driving among their respective clientele to enhance roadway safety,” Marquart said. “They can detect not only the impairment of the probationer or parolee, but possibly the individual who brought them to their visit or individuals encountered during home visits. The end result would promote safer Texas highways.”