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Suspended officer drug training program continues with new rules

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A controversial drug training program for Minnesota law enforcement that was suspended last year has been reinstated with some changes, the Star Tribune reports.

The revised guidelines for the state’s Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) program come after allegations that officers gave marijuana to activists involved in Occupy demonstrations in downtown Minneapolis.

The program is intended to teach officers how to identify impaired drivers.

According to a federal lawsuit filed in February, six people are suing a number of law enforcement agencies, claiming they were given drugs, observed by police and released back into the city while still under the influence.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office evaluated the case and found no evidence of misconduct. However, the program remained suspended while officials reviewed its structure.

The most significant change to DRE announced Friday involves moving the field-testing portion of the training to California.

The Associated Press says field training for drug evaluators will occur through a California Highway Patrol program that certifies officers from around the country. The classroom portion will continue in Minnesota, the newspaper said.

The program will also have new leadership. MPR reports the former head of the program, Sgt. Rick Munoz of the State Patrol, is on administrative leave for a unrelated incident.

As for the lawsuit, Nathan Hansen, the attorney representing the six plaintiffs is not impressed by the restructuring.

"Nobody's been charged with any crime. Nobody's been fired and we have elected officials, if you read the briefs, that basically say, 'Yeah, we did all that and that's just fine because we're immune,' " Hansen told MPR.

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