Pubdate: Thu, 25 Aug 2005
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Decatur Daily
Bookmark: (Drug Test)


The seven Boston police officers who claim in a lawsuit that drug testing
utilizing hair samples is racially biased are grasping at straws.

The department promptly fired or suspended each of the seven officers
who tested positive for cocaine. All deny having used cocaine.

In a civil-rights lawsuit filed against the department, the officers
claim the test utilizing hair samples is unreliable and racially
biased because, they say, studies have found dark-haired people are
more likely to test positive for drugs than light-haired people.
According to the studies, drug compounds bind more easily to dark hair
because it has higher levels of melanin than light hair.

Our reaction: So what?

If the officers had avoided cocaine, there would be zero chance of
detecting the substance in their hair, regardless of its color.
Because the hair test -- which is much more scientifically reliable as
well as more difficult to alter than the alternative urine test -- is
even more accurate on dark hair than on light hair is not grounds to
throw it out altogether.

As with any medical test, laboratories must take care of the sample to
assure no outside contamination takes place. If the test shows a
positive result, a second test should confirm that result. The company
that performs the testing for the Boston Police Department as well as
Fortune 500 companies and police departments in Chicago and Los
Angeles takes such precautions.

Given the nature of police work, it may be possible that the officers
had some environmental exposure to cocaine -- during a drug bust or
while handling evidence, for example. Drug testing usually establishes
toleration limits to take that possibility into account.

But officers who claim the test is racially biased on the basis of
hair color are splitting a hair that is irrelevant to the issue.
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MAP posted-by: Derek