Pubdate: Sun, 13 Jan 2008
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2008 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Note: The Journal does not publish LTEs from writers outside its 
circulation area
Author: Dan Galindo
Bookmark: (Drug Testing)


Deputies First, Then Firefighters

Random drug testing is expected to start soon for Forsyth County 
sheriff's deputies, with testing for county firefighters and 
paramedics to follow. The heads of the county's three public-safety 
agencies said that random drug testing is a good way for the county 
to ensure public confidence. The sheriff's office is working out the 
last details before starting testing, and firefighters and paramedics 
may start testing by March 1. "That's overdue," said Sheriff Bill 
Schatzman. "We can't have that (drugs) in law enforcement, when 
you're talking about guns and taking a life and taking people's civil 
liberties." Winston-Salem police have had random drug tests since the 
early 1990s, but the sheriff's office has not. It relied instead on 
the policy that applies to all county employees, which did not have 
random testing. Both police and the sheriff's office allow a 
supervisor to have an officer tested when they have reasonable 
suspicion to believe that officer might be using drugs. Both agencies 
test an officer or deputy before hiring. Police also require testing 
when an officer is in a wreck that does a lot of damage to a car, or 
a wreck with serious injuries in which the officer is at fault, said 
Lt. Brad Yandell, a police spokesman.

The sheriff's office tests deputies involved in wrecks on a 
case-by-case basis, said Maj. Brad Stanley.

The sheriff's office will have random tests for five types of drugs - 
marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines and PCP. Police do the same 
test. Paramedics and firefighters will have a test for nine types of 
drugs, which costs more.

Although the sheriff's office did not have figures for the cost per 
test, the same test costs the city $33. The test for firefighters for 
nine types of drugs is more than $40, and that does not include 
testing for steroids. Steroid abuse is a problem among officers, 
according to a 2004 report from the federal Drug Enforcement 
Administration. Abuse can lead to short-term effects that include 
delusions, mood swings, hostility and impaired judgment. City Manager 
Lee Garrity said that city officials have talked about testing for 
steroids, but have not added the test because of the cost. Schatzman 
said he thought that the test for five drugs was adequate, as that 
test is common among law-enforcement agencies.

"Certainly I've heard about (steroid use) in terms of sports," he 
said, "but I've never heard about it in terms of law enforcement." 
Each county agency can randomly test up to 10 percent of its 
employees a month. "You could work a full career here and never get 
it, or you could get it four times," Stanley said. "It just depends." 
For the first year of testing, the sheriff's office has set aside 
$1,000. It's money well spent, Stanley said.

"We do not feel and hope that we do not have anyone that is using and 
abusing drugs," he said. "This is another way to validate that."
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