BARABOO — Carl Ustupski is gaining attention for his ability to identify drivers impaired by drugs, but he’d love to be less successful at it.
The Baraboo police officer is alarmed that he sees more drug-impaired drivers in this small community than he did in his previous post in New Mexico.
“It’s kind of scary,” Ustupski said.
Last year, he identified 42 drivers impaired by drugs. That was up from 30 in 2017.
“I hope it doesn’t go up,” Ustupski said. “It would be great if I didn’t have any.”
In performing that many evaluations, Ustupski is ranked among the tops in Wisconsin. He’s a certified drug recognition expert, trained to determine what substances are in the systems of drivers who are clearly impaired but aren’t drunk.
“He’ll say, ‘About an hour ago you used cocaine,’” Chief Mark Schauf said. “They’ll give a look like, ‘How could you tell that?’”
Ustupski went through an intensive training program to identify key indicators. He analyzes eye movement, muscle response and pulse rate to determine whether an arrested driver may be under the influence of depressants or stimulants, and what type of drug they’ve used.
“It’s probably the hardest training course I’ve ever taken,” he said. “You have to have the knowledge they throw at you down.”
He uses his training to evaluate drivers during his own traffic stops, as well as assisting other officers who arrest people who are driving erratically but don’t have alcohol in their system.
“If you don’t have the training, you don’t know what to look for,” Ustupski said.
Ustupski was certified in 2011, four years before joining the local force. His training helps him determine what may be amiss with drivers whose breath tests don’t indicate the presence of alcohol. Sometimes he finds they’ve used illegal drugs. Other times he finds they took prescription pills and didn’t realize they shouldn’t be driving, or uncovers a medical condition they didn’t know they had.
Ustupski has assisted several area law enforcement agencies, as well as fellow Baraboo officers. Those agencies are putting more officers through drug evaluation training so Ustupski doesn’t get spread too thin.
They may find, as Ustupski did, that they didn’t know what they were missing. If he had known then what he knows now, Ustupski said he would’ve nabbed more drug users on the roads earlier in his career.
“It opens your eyes,” he said. “How many did I not catch?”
Schauf said getting more officers trained as drug recognition experts, and making Ustupski available to other agencies, are worthwhile investments. “We’re attempting to approach that edge of drug-related driving,” he told the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee last week. “They never seem to stop, so we won’t, either.”