DRE officers blackmailed subjects: 'When you come up to DRE school your morals are gone'
DRE officers watched subjects smoke weed at a gravel pit in Richfield.
Image by Tatiana Craine
-- This is part four 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 --
A theme emerging repeatedly in the BCA's report is officers' uneasiness with the moral dilemmas involved in trying to find DRE subjects.
THE CITY PAGES' DRE SERIES:
-- DRE officer on finding drug-using subjects: We went to "shitty areas" like Franklin Ave. [PART THREE]
-- DRE 'victims' to file civil lawsuit against alleged pot-distributing officers [PART TWO]
-- DRE officer: "I don't know what the big deal is I just gave them marijuana" [PART ONE]
For instance, during an interview with investigators, Nobles County deputy Kenneth Willers -- the same Kenneth Willers who was accused by his training partner of giving pot to DRE subjects (see part one of this series) -- said that prior to coming to the Twin Cities for training, his colleagues repeatedly warned him, "pretty much when you come up to DRE school certifications your morals are gone."
To take another example, during his interview, state trooper and Thief River Falls native Derek Schneider discusses the unease he felt while watching DRE subjects smoke pot in a gravel pit in Richfield near the MnDOT garage. From Schneider's interview transcript (emphasis mine):
Mark [i.e., Schneider's partner] and I had a lot of debates on this early on when we're driving around in the car the first two weeks when all we were doing was picking people up and cuz we- we'd hear back at the DOT shop, the other groups were having people smoke down at the gravel pit which is nearby and they were just thinking is this, you know, sho-is this part of the training, should this be happening? Um, and so we'd have debates on that most days. At one point I remember, I mean it was, everybody was talking about doing it every day, you could hear ah and Mark said oh, you know, you're just gonna have to, just gonna have to get over that that this part of it, you know, this is part of the training or whatever, um, and people are talking in the-in the ah, the big group at-at the shop, you know, with instructors around, with Rick around, I mean this is all they're talking about all this, so it just seems like, ah, it's an acceptable part of the training, at least, you know, the instructors weren't saying people shouldn't be doing this and um, I'm getting myself off track. I can kinda talk on and on it seems like.
Schneider went as far as to raise his concerns to an instructor. But the instructor told him she was actually happy he'd observed people smoking pot "because I got to see the immediate effects of the drug," Schneider said.
During his interview, Kenneth Willers discusses another 'moral issue' DRE trainees faced -- it was standard practice for officers to blackmail people who possibly faced drug possession charges by offering not to arrest them if they served as DRE subjects.
Willers' interviewer says: "You said that if you found somebody with drugs on 'em that you could certainly use that as a way to motive them if you know... you can either go to jail for possession of the drugs or if you want to cooperate with us we'll give you a pass."
"Yep," Willers replies.
The overall sense of unease felt by DRE trainees is summed up nicely by Fillmore County Deputy Michael Hadland during his interview: "It is a weird class to go out and try to find someone high and not arrest 'em," he said.
DRE SCANDAL BACKGROUND READING (EARLIEST TO MOST RECENT):
-- 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
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.