It was 12:30 a.m. March 20, 1993, a Saturday morning. I was supposed to get off work at 1:00 a.m. but if things didn’t start happening fast, I would be late. I walked into the booking area with my prisoner and found it to be very crowded with other police officers
and their prisoners. All I wanted was to get my prisoner booked and in jail so I could get some sleep before reporting to court in the morning.
I wasn’t paying too much attention to the other officers or their prisoners until someone asked, ” Ski, will you look at this guy and tell me what drug he’s on?” I looked down the row of people sitting on the bench and knew immediately who he wanted me to examine. He was a white male about 22 years old. He was overweight with bad teeth and skin. He was wearing a black leather jacket with no shirt underneath. He sat on the bench as if he were in a trance. I didn’t like his looks and I didn’t want to have to do a drug exam that would cause me to work an hour or two overtime. I immediately chastised myself. I’m a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), an instructor at that. Here was a fellow officer who needed assistance, and right then I was the only one that could help him. I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling any sympathy for the prisoner, after all it was his own fault that he was here.
The officer told me that he and his partner had found the man passed out behind the wheel of his vehicle after he had crashed into a tree. They had also found him with a loaded pistol in a shoulder holster under his jacket. They arrested him for DUI, but they couldn’t get him to wake up long enough to take the breath test. They also failed to note an odor of alcohol on his breath. That’s why they needed me to help determine what was wrong with their prisoner.
I went over to him and called him by name and asked him what was wrong. I received no answer. I smelled his breath and found it to be incredibly bad, but absent an odor of alcohol. I pulled him up by his jacket and shook him in hopes of waking him. I gently
slapped his face, then slapped it a little harder which only caused him to groan.
I let him sit back down on the bench and then forced his eyes open to check for pupil size and response. I found them to be within the normal range, equal and reactive. I was also successful in getting him to look to the left and saw no nystagmus. I could now
rule out a number of drugs such as stimulants, depressants, PCP, narcotics and inhalants. I was beginning to think that he may be under the influence of LSD or some other hallucinogen, except he didn’t appear to be hallucinating. I walked away in frustration realizing that I was getting nowhere.
I was just about to give up on the guy thinking that I’d never find out what he had been using when I heard the arresting officer say that he was going to put his prisoner in jail for carrying a concealed weapon and not worry about the DUI charge since we were
unable to tell what drug he is under the influence of. When I heard those words, a red flag went up in my head. I had a mental picture of this guy being put in the drunk tank and forgotten about. Then in the morning when the jailer tried to wake him up, they would find that he had died in his sleep. I could see the headline in the next day’s newspaper, “DRE INSTRUCTOR LETS MAN DIE IN JAIL”. Not only did I not want to be the laughing stock of the DRE community, I didn’t want to be named in a wrongful
death lawsuit. Besides he was a human being and I had taken an oath to protect and serve people just like him.
I told myself, “I’m better than this.” I pride myself on being an expert in drug use, but I wasn’t getting anywhere with this guy. Mostly because I was being lazy, I didn’t want to work overtime, I wanted to go home and go to sleep. I had fallen into a big trap,
one that I had warned all my DRE students to avoid. Do not form an opinion until you have all the facts. Here I had formed the opinion that this person was a drug user, a bad guy, a blight on society, someone not worth my time, especially my overtime.
I started to feel guilty at the way I was treating this man. I am a highly trained professional but I wasn’t acting the least bit professional. After I chastised myself, I repented and tried another tack, one that I try to teach my students, become the
person’s friend. Convince him that you like him and are trying to help him. I sat down on the bench beside him and put my arm around him and again called him by name saying “Jason, Jason, tell me what’s wrong, how can I help you”?
He yelled so loud that the words startled me, “HELP ME, I NEED HELP”. I asked what kind of help he needed, but the only response I got was “I need help.” I walked away from him to collect my thoughts. Standing about 15 feet from him I began to look him
over. I could see that he was sweating but looked pale. He sat upright but appeared to be unaware of where he was. I checked his pulse and found it to be weak but rapid. Could it be that he wasn’t under the influence of a drug, but that he was sick? I began to suspect that he may be suffering from insulin shock. Again, I checked his breath in hopes of smelling an odor of almonds, a sign of insulin shock, but his breath was so bad I couldn’t smell anything.
I asked “Are you sick?”. without opening his eyes, he screamed “YES, YES, I NEED HELP.” I asked him, “Do you use insulin?” YES, YES, I NEED HELP.” I asked “Are you diabetic?” By this time his frustration must have been at its peak because he was screaming at the top of his lungs, “YES, YES, I NEED HELP.” I bought him a chocolate bar, but was unsuccessful in getting him to eat it. I bought him some orange juice but couldn’t get him to drink it. When I tried, he became more violent and uncooperative.
I then decided that it was time to call paramedics. After the paramedics arrived, they confirmed that he was suffering from insulin shock and that he must be transported to the hospital. I later contacted the hospital and was told that Jason was treated
and then released. They also said that Jason could have died if he had not been treated in a timely manner.
I had made a mistake, almost a deadly mistake. I had forgotten the reason why I spent so much time training as a DRE. I had forgotten this because I wanted to go home on time. As DRE’s we must always strive to be diligent, and conduct ourselves with pride and professionalism. We must remember to conduct all exams in a standardized and systematic manner, remembering that not everyone we come in contact with is a drug user or a bad guy. Some of the people out there just might need our help.
As remembered by Ski Ingram March 1993