BAR HARBOR—When a driver appears to be impaired but tests zero on a standard breathalyzer test, Officer Judson Cake takes over. Breathalyzers only measure alcohol levels. Cake looks for signs of other types of impairment. He is a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) for the Bar Harbor Police Department, and his work is in high demand.
Cake was honored earlier this month by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for “outstanding work in the DRE program for the year 2017.” Cake performed the highest number of drug impaired driving evaluations in the state last year.
He credits this to being one of just a handful of DREs in a rural area. He has done drug recognition work in Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth, Acadia National Park Headquarters and often in his own police department in Bar Harbor, where people are brought in to him.
His job as specialist is to figure out the type of impairment by looking for telling signs. He checks blood pressure, pulse, body temperature and pupil size. “You can tell a lot from pupil size,” he said. These signs lead him to determine drug category, or in some cases, multiple drug categories. Or the signs and symptoms may rule out drugs, and point to a medical condition instead.
Cake received his DRE training in 2016. It was a long process, he said. After the competitive application process comes a 16-hour Drug Recognition Pre-School to learn the basics, followed by an intensive 56-hour Drug Recognition School. Cake described this as “nine long days with lots of studying, learning everything you need to know.” The training focused on identifying signs and symptoms of seven categories of drugs. Flash cards helped him prepare for the test at the end, he said.
After the classroom portion came Drug Recognition Field Certification, which is hands-on training. For his field certification, Cake traveled to Baltimore, where he did drug evaluations in the jails, with people just brought into custody. After this, he took a final test lasting up to five hours.
When Cake obtained his DRE certification two years ago, he was one of 80 DREs in the state. Now he said that number has grown to 120. One of the new DREs this year is fellow Bar Harbor Officer Jerrod Hardy. Between the two of them, there is usually a DRE on staff every day in Bar Harbor.
“We’re just trying to make everything safe,” Cake said. “We’ve got a great group of guys here that do a good job with impaired driving. We’ve got a great group of supervisors who are supportive in getting us training. [Impaired driving] is something we have a lot of. It’s something we feel we can be proactive about.”