Pubdate: Tue, 19 Aug 2003
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2003sThe Advertiser Co.
Author: Phillip Rawls


The random drug testing of state troopers quietly ended in 1998, but it's 
about to come back.

The new director of the state Department of Public Safety says he's 
re-implementing drug testing as a matter of public confidence and public 

"It sends a message to the public we are willing to police ourselves. We 
recruit from the general population, and we are all subject to frailties," 
Col. Mike Coppage said in an interview.

Coppage retired as Birmingham's police chief in March and became public 
safety director in Gov. Bob Riley's Cabinet. Coppage said that when he 
arrived on the job, he found the state department had a good drug testing 
policy, but wasn't enforcing it.

Random drug testing had begun in 1991 but was discontinued in 1998 because 
of budget shortages and other problems, he said. The previous drug testing 
did not turn up any problems, and no incident prompted its return, he said.

The new system also will check for alcohol use while on the job, the 
director said.

Another major state law enforcement agency, the state Department of 
Conservation and Natural Resources, never has used random drug testing for 
its game wardens or Marine Police.

Allan Andress, chief of law enforcement for the Wildlife and Fresh Water 
Fisheries Division, said, "We've never seen a need for it. Drug abuse is 
something foreign to our enforcement officers."

At the Department of Public Safety, Coppage's plan calls for one state 
trooper post to be chosen each quarter for testing. Then about a dozen 
employees will be selected at random for testing.

All employees with arrest powers are subject to testing, as are other 
employees in sensitive areas, such as those dealing with fingerprints and 
driver's licenses, he said.
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