1,700 firefighters to face random drug tests BALTIMORE CITY

April 30, 1993|By Roger Twigg | Roger Twigg,Staff Writer

Starting in June, all 1,700 Baltimore firefighters -- including th chief -- will be subject to random drug tests, the city Board of Fire Commissioners announced yesterday.

A lottery system will be used to select the firefighters who will undergo drug testing under the new policy.

Currently, firefighters are required to take drug tests only when there is a suspicion or probable cause to believe that they were under the influence of drugs. They could be ordered to undergo treatment and face disciplinary action the first time they fail the test. A second infraction would result in automatic dismissal, fire officials said.

The new policy, like the current one, requires firefighters to undergo drug testing when they get involved in accidents while on duty.

"We tried to warn people long in advance that it was coming and for them to clean up their act," said Rick Schluderberg, first vice president of Firefighters Local 734.

Mr. Schluderberg was one of the members of an 11-person committee headed by Deputy Chief Michael E. Dalton that helped form the new drug guidelines.

"It mirrors what the city police department now has," Mr. Schluderberg said. "In the old policy you had to be under suspicion or we had to have probable cause [to require the test]. Even at that rate they did find a lot of people who had a problem."

Fire Chief Herman Williams said no figures were immediately available on those who tested positive under the old guidelines.

"It's just a sign of the times," Chief Williams said of the switch to random testing.

"We feel we are in a better position than society at large, but you don't want to take a chance at possibly jeopardizing people's lives," he added.

"We don't know who is abusing drugs. But, with random drug testing, everyone is on the playing field. If there is a problem we can pick it up now rather than wait for a possible accident to occur."

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