Pubdate: Fri, 19 May 2000
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Copyright: 2000 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Jim Allard
Note: headline by MAP


Dear editor, 
I read the May 16th editorial entitled "Mayor is wrong on
Drug Tests" with interest. The idea presented is that Mayor Sue Bauman
should support random drug testing for firefighters because it will
end the "crisis of confidence surrounding the Madison Fire
Department", and because "firefighters need to be drug-free and alert
on the job", and finally because "random drug testing of firefighters
will help everyone". I'm not convinced there is a crisis of confidence
surrounding the Madison Fire Department. Surely, some folks might be
having a crisis, but I suspect most of us are completely confident in
the Madison Fire Department to do its job. Indeed, I expect
firefighters to be drug and alcohol free and alert on the job and I'm
satisfied that they are. If there's reason to believe otherwise, I'm
all ears. The fact that a firefighter uses alcohol or other drugs when
they're off-duty is completely irrelevant to their on-the-job
performance. Is the real motivation behind random drug testing to
improve on-the-job performance? I don't think so. I really can't
believe we need a drug test to determine if a firefighter is drunk,
hung-over, high, or otherwise unfit for the job. If alertness and
split-second judgements are important, as the editorial claims, why
don't the firefighters get tested for this?. Have them play video
games or walk a tight-rope. No, I think the real motivation is to
control what they're allowed to do on their personal time. Is this
what the editorial was really about?

Finally, I don't agree with the assertion that random drug testing
will help everyone -- including the public, the firefighters who want
the department's name cleared, and the drug users who could use help.
Implicit is the notion that the fire department's name needs to be
cleared and that drug users need help. I once again disagree on both
counts. Remember, most people who use alcohol and other drugs do not
need help. Be careful not to equate user with abuser. Also, the
evidence is that the Madison Fire Department is doing it's job quite
well, and will continue to do so in the future. I suspect this is what
the "public" cares about and not what the firefighters are doing in
their off-duty time. If the fire department's name is to be cleared,
what should it be cleared of? Doing a good job?

Jim Allard
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MAP posted-by: Derek Rea