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Drug Screening of Police: On the High Road

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Technology Volume: 32 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2005 Pages: 180,182,187
Douglas Page
Date Published
September 2005
7 pages
This article identifies and discusses issues related to drug testing of police officers.
A 1999 survey on drug-screening policies and practices of 651 U.S. police departments found that 86.6 percent tested all job applicants; however, no such trend was found in drug screening of active-duty officers. Apparently, a limited number of major metropolitan police and sheriff's departments have instituted random drug testing. Although random drug screening by employers can be a deterrent to drug use by employees, it raises privacy concerns and fourth amendment issues. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld drug-testing requirements in certain circumstances, but employers must use testing procedures that are minimally intrusive. Employers should also be aware that labor laws in their jurisdictions may require negotiation with employee representatives regarding drug-testing requirements. Because of the many legal issues attached to employee drug testing, a law enforcement agency should seek legal advice prior to implementing drug-testing procedures. In order to ensure ongoing compliance with established policy and legal requirements, those who administer the tests should receive ongoing training in the technical and legal aspects of testing procedures. Acceptance of drug testing by police unions and officers can also rest on assurances that police are not being singled out for such testing. Any drug testing policy should apply to all civic employees in a jurisdiction, including political leaders. Regarding testing procedures, hair analysis is a better alternative than urinalysis, because it is less intrusive, is more difficult to evade, and is more likely to detect the presence of drugs 3 to 5 days after ingestion.