Ypsilanti Police Chief talks drug tests at city council meeting

Police Chief Tony Deguisti answered questions about the new swabbing drug tests happening in Ypsilanti at the city council meeting on Tuesday, November 28. 

The new roadside drug testing program test program was launched at the beginning of November. Deguisti came forward in an attempt to gain support, and to dispel any potential rumors.

Deguisti pointed to autopsy reports showing an increase in fatal crashes involving drug use, believing that number could grow.

“We believe legalization is happening in the next one to two years,” Deguisti said. “We’re just trying to be proactive.”

The state-police-run pilot program will go on for a year. If the tests are accurate, they will most likely be adopted by more cities, according to Deguisti. 

The roadside drug test program works alongside any other field sobriety testing, and can only be administered on people suspected of being impaired, according to Deguisti. A sample would be taken from a person’s cheek, and tested in a kit the officer would have on hand. If any traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or other chemical components the kit test for are found, then the driver is considered impaired, and the officer can pursue legal action. Deguisti was unable to recall the names of any of the other chemicals the tests would “look for.”

According to Deguisti, the only officers allowed to conduct the tests are certified Drug Recognition Experts, who have to take 72 hours of classes and hands on experience. There is only one officer who is a certified DRE, Sergeant Anderson, and there no plans to certify any more officers in the near future.

Deguisti said that refusing the test would be a civil infraction, just like refusing a breathalyzer test. 

So far, the test has only been used once by Sgt. Anderson.

City councilmember Peter Murdock voiced some concerns about the new test. He felt the tests could be abused, and that people could be at risk of profiling. Deguisti felt that these concerns were addressed in the full 12-step analysis process the officers go through before administering the test.

“These officers are very motivated.” Deguisti said.

Deguisti pointed out that Colorado has a limit of up to 5 liquid nanograms present in the test, but no such guideline exists in Michigan.

There were also concerns that individuals who have their medical marijuana licenses would be unfairly punished as a result of these tests. Deguisti believes that the intention of these tests is to not chase after drug users, but simply those who are driving impaired, and are under the influence of the drug. 

“Having a med card doesn’t mean you can drive high.” Deguisti said.

Members of the city council were curious as to why these measures were being taken, while other, more dangerous driving behaviors such as texting and driving were still rampant issues.. Deguisti said that the current laws prevent officers from taking action against texting and driving, but these roadside drug tests are a preventative measure they can more effectively take.

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