U. of I. Police officer gets unique certification as drug expert

URBANA – Officer Ryan Snow has joined an exclusive group of Illinois police who are certified as drug recognition experts, and he hopes the distinction will help to deter impaired driving and drug use on campus.

The program is sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and administered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Snow’s participation in more than 200 hours of training means he now has an exceptional sense of when someone is under the influence of drugs.

The program was originally created to deter impaired driving by increasing the likelihood that people who drive under the influence of drugs would be caught.

“I have always had an interest in stopping drugs and helping to deter impaired driving,” Snow said. “When I found a program that combined those two passions and allowed me to bring a skill set to the community that we didn’t have, I jumped at the opportunity.”

Snow’s certification makes him one of about 50 drug recognition experts in the state, and the only officer in Champaign County with that classification. He said a Champaign Police officer plans to attend the class soon.

“Many officers know someone is impaired but don’t have the knowledge on how to prove it,” Snow said. “I can perform a few tests, evaluate the results and make an expert opinion based on those results if the person is currently under the influence of some type of drug. That opinion can then be shared in court as expert testimony to help with the conviction of the crime.”

Snow will also be able to share his expertise with other departments in the area if they request it, and it will help to enhance safety for everyone around him, including offenders.

“Sometimes drugs can make people violent,” Snow said. “If I can help determine early on that a subject is under the influence, I can warn other officers to help keep everyone on scene a little safer.”

The certification course includes a two-week classroom portion, and Snow said he has performed about 50 supervised evaluations of people under the influence of some kind of drug. The program is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, the American Bar Association and the National Commission Against Drunk Driving.

“Having a drug recognition expert on campus will hopefully help stop the issue of impaired driving,” Snow said. “If students feel there is a greater chance of getting caught, they might not ever take the chance. This is my ultimate goal. If officers can help stop bad decisions before they are made, everyone becomes a litter safer.”