DRE officer on finding drug-using subjects: We went to "shitty areas" like Franklin Ave.

DRE trainees would look for subjects in relatively poor parts of Minneapolis, like East Franklin Avenue.
DRE trainees would look for subjects in relatively poor parts of Minneapolis, like East Franklin Avenue.

-- This is part three in a series of five snapshots from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's lengthy investigation into officer misconduct associated with the state patrol's Drug Recognition Expert program. For background reading, see chronology of City Pages' coverage at the bottom of this post --

The officers who took part in this spring's Drug Recognition Expert training came from all over the state, with many hailing from areas outside the Twin Cities metro. So it's no surprise most reported being unfamiliar with the urban environment of Minneapolis and the city's drug culture.

-- DRE officer: "I don't know what the big deal is I just gave them marijuana" [FIRST IN SERIES]
-- DRE 'victims' to file civil lawsuit against alleged pot-distributing officers [SECOND IN SERIES]

For instance, consider the testimony of 30-year-old Anoka County deputy Christopher McCall. McCall told investigators that he and his partner (a Nobles County deputy) were "unfamiliar and uncomfortable" with downtown Minneapolis, the area where they were expected to find drug-using DRE subjects.

To take another example, during an interview with an investigator, Nicholas Otterson -- a DRE trainee, state trooper, and Hutchinson native -- said that when the training began, he and his colleagues were unsure how to find subjects. Here's how he said his instructors helped him out (emphasis mine):

Um, they would make comments here and there because everyone was wondering you know how -- how exactly do we go about doing this and basically we were told you need to go out on these streets into the you know less affluent you know, the shitty areas and you know there's all homeless people, a lot of prevalent drug use and find people that are impaired by drugs and get them to volunteer for an evaluation.

In a similar vein, another part of the BCA's reports says: "Officers were instructed to go to areas in the metro area where they would likely encounter individuals who were under the influence of drugs, such as the Franklin Avenue area in Minneapolis."

But DRE trainees weren't limited to the "shitty areas" of Minneapolis in their quest to find subjects. For instance, Bryan Bearce, a state trooper from Little Falls, said he and his partner looked for subjects both in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Bearce said DRE trainees weren't discouraged from venturing into the suburbs, though they had a "richer target area" in the cities.

Of course, the epicenter of last spring's DRE scandal was downtown Minneapolis' Peavey Plaza, which at the time was home to the region's Occupy movement. Olmsted deputy Michelle Ness told investigators she and her partner discovered the usefulness of Peavey "almost by accident" (emphasis mine):

We were just driving along and we kinda looked over to Peavey and we're like whoa concentration of potential clients. So we actually parked our squad and we walked out on Peavey Plaza and we, we really didn't know what was going on I mean we were truly like not sure so we walked up to this, this group of maybe ten people and we're just you know Brian and I were both very just like outgoing, friendly we're not I mean we're just kinda you know relaxed. We're like hey what's going on, why are you guys down here and just chatty and we talked to these people for probably a good ten minutes just kind of asking 'em what was going on, how ya doin', what are you guys here for. Oh occupy Minnesota. Oh yeah, yeah you know. You know so we, they were kinda looking at us and looking at our patches like where are you from. And then it started the well let me um we'll tell you why we're down here. So we gave the speech of this is why we're here. And ah you know all of 'em were laughing like oh you'd give me a pack of cigarettes if I went with you. We're like look we need people that are high though Oh yeah I just smoked weed you know half an hour ago. Like alright let's start over, so I remember my partner was like okay who here smokes marijuana. And literally everyone raised their hands except for one woman. And I looked at her and I kind of laughed and pointed to her I'm like what's up with that she goes well I'm pregnant right now. Oh okay-okay. So then you know at that point we were getting, I'd say bored with people who were just doing marijuana we were looking for other harder drugs. Alright who here uses ah you know cocaine. And a couple raised their hand. Who here used meth I mean it was like a, they were just it was funny really that the, they'd be so honest and so you know here's two cops asking who uses what drugs they were just like ooh me and raising their hands.

Shortly after Ness and other DRE trainees started hunting for drug-impaired subjects in Peavey, local activists filmed a documentary where young people hanging out there alleged some officers had given them marijuana. That, in turn, led to the suspension of the State Patrol's DRE program, and the investigation detailed in the BCA report.

-- Minnesota police giving Peavey Plaza Occupy-ers drugs as part of impairment study, report says [VIDEO]
-- State Patrol "looking into" Occupy drug allegations; Mpls police claim no involvement
-- State Patrol: "No evidence" officers gave Occupy-ers drugs
-- Police did indeed give Occupiers free pot, new evidence suggests; DRE program suspended
-- DRE drug scandal: City of Minneapolis denies involvement as outstate officers take heat
-- Dan Feidt, producer of DRE drug scandal video, talks about Occupy, police, and the war on drugs
-- Sgt. Rick Munoz, DRE program boss, is pretty much the biggest jerk ever
-- DRE drug scandal: No criminal charges for alleged dope-distributing officers

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