A 35-year tenure with the Windham Police Department is not the only thing that stands out on the resume of Patrol Capt. Ray Williams.

Williams received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy Sept. 14, honored as the state’s longest-serving officer in the Drug Recognition Expert program.

Officers trained as in the program use a 12-step process, standardized across the country, to evaluate drug-impaired drivers and place the impairment into drug categories affiliated with specific signs and symptoms.

When the program started up in Maine in 1991, Williams took part in the first class of trainees. Today, he is the only member of that class still doing the work, and since 2003 has taught the program at the Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro.

Williams

“The way I think about is when I arrest someone operating impaired, you never know where it could have gone if you didn’t intervene,” Williams said. “You could’ve saved their life or someone else’s. I’ve seen the tragic end of impaired driving and if I ever have to see it again in my career it’ll be too soon.”

Williams said he’s seen drivers impaired by everything from LSD and marijuana to methamphetamines and cocaine, with the current trend involving fentanyl and heroin.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration reports an increase in drug use among fatally injured drivers from 25% in 2007 to 42% in 2016. In 2007, 8% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for cannabinoids, compounds found in cannabis, while in 2016, 18% tested positive. Williams said marijuana is a common compound found in impaired drivers and is often found among other drugs.

OUI-related fatal vehicle crashes across the state and Cumberland County don’t show any clear trends over the past 15 years, according to the MaineDOT. The county has seen 210 OUI-related vehicle crashes so far in 2021, only two of which have been fatal. Last year, there were 250 OUI-related vehicle crashes in the county, one of which was fatal.

Jim Lyman, who coordinates the impaired driving program at the Criminal Justice Academy, said Williams has a “motivational presence in the program” and is a “good advocate” for recruiting new students. About 100 police officers in the state are trained Drug Recognition Experts, he said.

“Ray uses his experience, tenure and approachable demeanor to pass on his valuable skills and knowledge to the next generation of officers,” Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield said.

The drug recognition program was developed by the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 1970s when officers found many suspects arrested for driving under the influence had little or zero alcohol in their blood, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.

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