Rifle Police now have drug impairment expert on patrol
Last month, 17 officers from 14 law enforcement agencies across Colorado graduated from the state’s Drug Recognition Expert training program. One of those 17 graduates was Rifle Police Officer Kelli Litzau, who returns to the department with her official DRE certification.
Litzau said a DRE is a law enforcement officer trained to recognize impaired drivers under the influence of drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.
She said it was a three-step process including over 100 hours of standardized and systematic training, including classes, evaluations and examinations.
Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said Litzau has a knack for spotting and identifying impaired driving. He said DUI, and in particular lesser-degree driving while impaired cases, can be tough cases to build, and Litzau is extremely effective at making the case.
Litzau has been a police officer in Colorado since 2016 and has conducted over 100 impairment investigations.
She said she has a drive to take impaired drivers off the roads in Rifle, and her work will continue as she investigates alcohol DUIs, and those involving other drugs or a combination of substances.
She plans to continue to stay in her patrol, but also wants to use her knowledge of detecting impaired drivers to teach others about the risks of driving while under the influence.
A recent study from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration shows that Driver’s at a BAC level of .08% (legal limit) were still four times more likely to crash than sober drivers.
Drivers with a BAC level of 0.15% were 12 times more likely to crash than sober drivers, and cannabis users were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of cannabis use.
“The officers who are graduating today are to be commended for their commitment to traffic safety and making our roads safer from impaired drivers,” said Kim Ferber, DRE State Coordinator for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“With 30% of deaths on our roadways attributed to impaired drivers, drug recognition experts are critical to reducing that number and ultimately getting to our goal of zero deaths.”
Since the DRE program started in 1987, 683 Colorado officers have completed the training. There are currently 198 active DREs in Colorado representing 70 agencies.
Of the 198 active DREs, 57 serve with Colorado State Patrol.
To become a DRE candidate, a Colorado peace officer must have support from the agency’s chief or sheriff to attend the entire training and successfully complete the approved Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (SFST) and the classroom format Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE).
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Over the next five days, Rifle residents Ruth Brittain and Robert Harper will each be celebrating a major milestone in anyone’s life: their 100th birthday.