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Drug Testing in Law Enforcement Agencies: Social Control in the Public Sector

NCJ Number
James R. Brunet
Date Published
197 pages
This research tested aspects of a new theoretical framework for studying public-sector drug testing, using a national sample of local police departments.
The study found that size was an important determinant of testing policy in large police departments. Racial heterogeneity, on the other hand, did not significantly influence drug testing policies in large departments. Social-distance variables worked in the opposite manner in the smallest departments (10-24 officers). Racial diversity was a significant issue in these agencies, although department size was not a significant factor. Agencies with counseling policies tended to use more random drug testing. The theoretical framework for this research built on Black's (1976; 1984) framework for studying social control, which Black defines as the process by which "people define and respond to deviant behavior." In viewing drug testing as a form of social control over the behavior and performance of public employees, i.e., police officers in the current research, this study focused on six prominent justifications for drug testing as a method of social control: performance, health, and safety; deterrence; rehabilitation; symbolism; technology; and conflict. These were analyzed within Black's framework of social control. The research tested the effectiveness of these rationales. Data for the study of police department drug testing were obtained from the 1997 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics survey, which is a nationwide survey of all State and local police agencies in the United States. Questions about agency drug testing policies were discontinued in the most recent versions of the survey, requiring that this study use the 1997 dataset. Data were obtained from 3,412 completed surveys. Dependent variables pertained to drug testing policy and independent variables were organized around three sources of variation in social control theory: social distance, social status of officers, and the influence of third-party actors. Extensive tables, 195 references, and a subject index