Detroit Mercy to house first-of-its-kind drug recognition archive
Students, police officers, attorneys or anyone curious about drug recognition now have a place to do research and learn the history of Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) at the Drug Recognition Center and Archives, located in University of Detroit Mercy’s Library Archives.
Detroit Mercy alumnus Thomas Page ’71, ’76 is a nationally recognized DRE — a law enforcement officer trained to identify people whose driving is impaired by drugs — with more than 30 years of experience. And he is the driving force behind the Drug Recognition Center and Archives.
Page said he was motivated to create the center because there was no central location for DRE materials or history.
“There was really no one place to refer to, the materials were scattered all over the country,” Page said. “One person said, ‘I can always call up Tom Page.’ But I’m not going to be around forever. There’s a need for these materials and it’s always evolving.
“We have this stuff, nobody else has it and if we don’t put it somewhere where it’s going to be saved then it’s going to be lost to history.”
The history of DRE curriculum and training is important to Page because he was one of the pioneers in the early days when these things were being developed. As a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, Page assisted in the coordination of the 1985 Los Angeles Field Validation Test of the DRE Procedure, one of the first in the country. And he was a member of the initial DRE curriculum development cadre.
“I’m very protective of where this all came from and how it developed,” Page said. “People like to re-write history and take credit for things. I’m not personally looking for credit, but I know the blood, sweat and tears that many officers and prosecutors put into this.”
Page still serves as an expert witness. He has testified in 21 states and presented internationally. Page said the center now gives him added credibility when he testifies, because the materials have a formal home and it can help current police officers answer the question posed by most attorneys, ‘What is the science behind this?’
“It’s unique because it takes psychology, biology, pharmacology, sociology, it takes from all these different fields and merges into something officers can use at roadside,” Page said. “To me, it comes down to this: who else makes arrests at 3 o’clock in the morning? It’s not doctors or nurses. It’s police officers. The materials allow you to look at all those different fields and learn from them, and sell it to them so they aren’t threatened by it.”
Once Page made the decision he wanted to help create the archive, he had to decide on a location. He contacted Detroit Mercy’s College of Liberal Arts & Education Dean Mark Denham, who put him in touch with Jennifer Dean, dean of University Libraries and Instructional Tech and Sara Armstrong, associate dean for Technical Services and Library Systems. Dean and Armstrong thought the center would be a great fit so they began the process of curating all the materials.
“I think it fits in with many aspects of our curriculum,” Armstrong said of the Drug Recognition Center. “I think this is a collection where students can actively come in and take a look at it. There’s the legal aspect, cybersecurity, pharmacology, criminal justice, nursing, it can hit a large group of disciplines. We thought it would be helpful for our current students.”
“I think the fact that the University has established this Resource Center and Archives is reflective of its commitment to intellectual curiosity, as well as its continued support of its students, professors and staff,” Page said. “I believe the center will stimulate research in various fields, including psychology, sociology, substance abuse and law.”
Dean also sees it as a way to honor an alumnus in Page who has accomplished so much in his field.
“He’s gone out and done something significant, that’s another focus you will see in the archive,” Dean said. “Here’s an alumnus who is a real expert in his field and this is a place where we can recognize that. And it’s perfect that it fits so well with our curriculum and faculty research interests.”
Prior to establishing the Center, Page surveyed prosecutors, toxicologists and researchers involved in the field of impaired driving and Page said 100% of those who responded thought it was a great idea.
“A number of officers said that they would refer attorneys to the center regarding the development of law enforcement procedures,” Page said. “Many officers said that they would use the center for specific information on the drugs of abuse. Prosecutors told me that this resource would be very helpful in preparing to meet challenges in court, particularly those challenges that deal with the history of Drug Recognition and the specific procedures.
“There is currently no central repository for the many studies, articles, books and ephemera that have helped the field of Drug Recognition to grow,” Page added. “This Center will be that repository.”
Page felt Detroit Mercy was the perfect fit for the Center for several reasons, including the Jesuit and Mercy values of the institution.
“The field of drug recognition is centered around public safety,” Page said. “It has its roots with law enforcement and the prosecution of drug-impaired drivers. At the same time, officers trained in drug recognition learn that there are many causes of impaired driving, including the identification of medical conditions. Officers are better able to direct people to medical care. It really is about justice for the individual and for society as a whole. I think that awareness of the interaction of mind, body, science or individuals and communities is very much at the heart of Jesuit and Mercy educational traditions.”
Once Page got the ball rolling by donating his own materials to the Drug Recognition Center and Archives, former colleagues of his and other highly respected DREs began to donate as well.
“The people who have started to donate materials are happy this is coming to a Mercy and Jesuit institution because principle and ethics are so important in drug recognition,” Armstrong said.
Page credits his time at Detroit Mercy (then the University of Detroit) for having a lasting impression on him.
“I’ve got to give so much credit to what I learned from this place,” Page said. “My Jesuit education played a very important role. It gave me a value system, an ethical system, a comprehensive way of looking at things. I remember classes that emphasized those things. I’ve been very, very lucky and I love the idea of giving back. It’s fun for me.”
Page believes his work with the Drug Recognition Center can have a lasting impact on the field and is just as important as the work he did with the LAPD at the start of his career.
“It’s going to save lives on the roadway,” Page said.