Baltimore County plans drug testing of its police officers

January 09, 1991|By Roger Twigg

The Baltimore County Police Department became yesterday the latest law enforcement agency in the metropolitan area to announce random drug testing of its police officers.

The program, scheduled to begin in about two months for the department's 1,581 officers and 35 civilian employees, is intended to provide accountability to the public, according to Sgt. Stephen R. Doarnberger, a department spokesman.

"People need to know that our officers are not a part" of the drug problem, he said.

The testing program was put together after meetings of police officials, civilian employee representatives and officials of the Fraternal Order of Police.

"We have no problem with it whatsoever," said George H. Hokemeyer, president of FOP Lodge 4. "It was needed because we do not want to be perceived as drug users, nor do we want to work beside someone who does [use drugs]. We all want to work in a drug-free environment."

The decision by Baltimore County to begin drug testing means that every major police department in the metropolitan area -- including those of Baltimore, Anne Arundel County and Howard County -- and the Maryland State Police have begun some kind of testing.

Carroll County does not have a countywide police department. In Harford County, the Sheriff's Department is the chief law enforcement agency. It does not have a drug-testing program for its officers.

Under Baltimore County's program, the 1,581 sworn members and about 35 civilian employees who work in sensitive areas where narcotics are handled will be subject to the testing. The order beginning the program is effective Friday, but Sergeant Doarnberger said it will take another two months before testing begins.

Once it does begin, three people will be chosen randomly each day for urine tests, the spokesman said. It is projected that about 25 percent of the force will be tested each year.

The department has given drug tests to applicants and recruits since 1985. So far, one recruit has tested positive and been dismissed from the academy, said E. Jay Miller, a police spokesman.

Mr. Miller said officers assigned to vice and narcotics units or to a public narcotics education program have faced random testing for about two years. No officers have tested positive in that time, although a six-year member of the department was dismissed in 1987 after his arrest by federal agents on narcotics distribution charges, the spokesman said.

Mr. Hokemeyer of the FOP said his only concern was that the drug-testing process be practical and accurate. He said he believed the drug problem within the department to be "minimal."

Officers who test positive for drug use could face departmental charges and ultimately termination, but each case will be decided on its own merits, Mr. Miller said.

Baltimore began its program last spring, and two of the city's 967 police officers who underwent random testing tested positive, said Dennis S. Hill, a police spokesman.

One of the officers was fired after a departmental hearing, and the other resigned rather than face administrative charges, Mr. Hill said.

Howard County began its random drug testing program for police officers Oct. 12, said Sgt. Gary Gardner, a police spokesman.

While no officers have tested positive, he said cases would be treated individually.

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