Coordinator of impaired driver program ousted

Posted at 1:24 PM, Jan 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-06 13:25:02-05

For 17 years, retired Muncie police officer Joe Turner has run the state’s drug and alcohol impared recognition program.

For now at least, he hasn’t been fired, nor suspended.

He says the people who oversee the program just won’t talk to him.

The state of Indiana has only 128 certified officers with the expertise to discern the difference between a drunk driver and a drug-impaired driver. And in a state that leads the nation in meth labs, and where someone dies of a drug overdose every 25 minutes, their role is critical in keeping roads safe.

“I’ve taught it in 14 states,” Turner said. “I’ve lectured in another eight states. ... These people who come in and after three months, change everything, in my opinion are killing the program."

Three months ago, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute appointed a new staff member to oversee the program. 

Last week, the head of the institute sent a letter to the state's drug and alcohol recognition, saying the program was effective and has elicited great success. The letter also said that those trained under Turner were not acting ineffectively.

Director Dave Murtaugh says the program is undergoing an evaluation.

“This is an ongoing process,” he said. “We look at all our programs and make sure our grant dollars are spent wisely and prudently. In doing so, we had to re-evaluate this one specific program.”

The drug and alcohol recognition program has been without a state training coordinator since October. He believes it will only mean a decline in enforcement and roads only get more dangerous.

“Personally, I think people will wind up dying as a result of this, but I'll never be able to prove it. That's two or three years down the road. These people will be gone.” Turner said.

The executive director of the state’s criminal justice institute says Turner will be replaced with a 3-month interim director and that officials remain committed to the program.

When asked about Turner’s status, the director said he couldn’t talk about it -- saying it was a personnel matter.