Fired officer admitted use of drugs, city says

October 21, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Eric Carroll, the former Westminster police officer who says his firing was based on a mishandled urine sample obtained under false pretenses, had admitted "ingestion" of illegal drugs, according to the department's answer to Mr. Carroll's $8 million federal lawsuit.

The department's response, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, said Mr. Carroll had, at least once before his firing in December 1993, "admitted intentional ingestion of illegal drugs to the police."

Mr. Carroll's attorney called the allegation unfair yesterday.

"He never admitted to being a drug user, and they know it," David L. Moore said. He said Mr. Carroll did tell police officials that once, during a heated argument with a family member who used drugs, he dipped his finger into a powdery substance.

Mr. Carroll tasted the substance -- believed to be heroin, according to sources -- and determined that his relative possessed an illegal substance.

"There's no drug use here," Mr. Moore said. "They're grasping at straws with that allegation."

The allegation is the department's first response to Mr. Carroll's seven-count suit, which was filed last month. In the suit, Mr. Carroll claims he was duped into providing a urine sample during what he thought was a follow-up physical examination for high blood pressure in his doctor's office.

Mr. Carroll gave the urine sample to a department doctor because the physician said he needed it to check for blood, the suit claims.

The sample -- which Mr. Carroll contends was obtained apparently on the orders of Westminster Police Chief Sam R. Leppo -- tested positive for the presence of drugs.

Mr. Carroll was told of the results. He took another urine test, which was inconclusive. He took a third test, according to the suit, which tested negative for drugs.

Nonetheless, the suit contends, police officials continued their investigation of Mr. Carroll. A police trial board -- made up of two state troopers and a Salisbury police officer -- recommended that Mr. Carroll be fired. The chief dismissed him days later.

Police officials deny that Chief Leppo and Dr. John W. Middleton of Westminster conspired to take Mr. Carroll's urine sample under false pretenses. But, they say in their answer to the complaint, "It was determined, because [Mr. Carroll] had earlier signed a consent form authorizing the police department to test him for drugs at any time during his employment, that it was unnecessary to advise him again or obtain any further consent."

Mr. Carroll and his attorney assert that, regardless of whether he signed a consent form, the way in which his urine was taken casts doubt on the accuracy of the positive test result.

In fact, Mr. Carroll claims, there are no assurances that the urine that tested positive for drugs was even his and, if it was, the urine could have been mishandled.

"Even if he were a flat-out admitted drug user, they wouldn't have the right to go behind his back like this," Mr. Moore said.

The police department said its conduct in the case was proper and that Mr. Carroll's rights were never violated. "The defendants deny they wrongfully invaded [Mr. Carroll's] privacy," the department's response says.

"To claim that this doctor violated every medical rule in the book in order to get Mr. Carroll is ridiculous," said Charles S. Fax, the attorney representing Westminster and the Police Department. "It's just not true, and he can't prove it."

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