Rio Rancho Police Officer Michael Hetes has been named the New Mexico Drug Recognition Expert of the Year. Courtesy photo.

The New Mexico Drug Recognition Expert of the Year does the work for the satisfaction of keeping innocent people safe.
Rio Rancho Police Officer Michael Hetes received the honor recently from the New Mexico DRE Program. He has worked for RRPD for six years and became a drug recognition expert about 4½ years ago.
“DWI was something I grew passionate about when I was a young officer,” he said.
He joined the four-person DWI Unit, where most officers are asked to become DREs. The training for the certification is “very tough,” Hetes said.
Students have to learn to recognize the influence of various categories of drugs, although not specific substances.
Officers spend two weeks in a classroom and another week in field training, in Fresno, Calif., in Hetes’ case. During field training, volunteers are brought to a station for DRE students to evaluate.
Hetes said he performed eight or nine DRE evaluations last year. According to a news release from the state DRE program, his evaluations accounted for more than 5 percent of all done by New Mexico law enforcement officers in 2020, and toxicology proved 100 percent of his conclusions correct.
“Being part of the DWI unit is something I love doing,” he said.
He does the work for the “gratification of knowing we got a drunk driver or an impaired driver off the road before they caused harm to an innocent family or person,” Hetes said.
RRPD Lt. Richard Koschade said Hetes is always available when someone needs a DWI suspect evaluated. Hetes has trained a number of officers in handling DWI and standardized field sobriety testing for RRPD and the State of New Mexico, and has helped with the DRE training program, according to the release.
Having once nearly been hit by a drunken driver during a traffic stop, Koschade said he appreciates the work of the DWI unit to reduce the number of impaired drivers on the streets.
Hetes said he was shocked to learn of his award, but humbled and greatly honored.
“I don’t like all the personal recognition from it,” he said. “That’s not why I do the job.”
He also said it’s important to recognize all of the other officers who put on the uniform and do traffic-law enforcement work.
They recognized the signs of impairment, Hetes said, which led to his evaluations and made his award possible.
Law enforcement runs in the Hetes family, with his father, Ron Hetes, and aunt, Ylaine Hetes, having retired from Albuquerque Police Department after 22 and 20 years, respectively.