May 27th, 2010 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall, Cops and Courts

With Saltzman Gone From Police, is Testing Cops for Drugs off the Table?

Dan Saltzman Responds to Officer-Involved Shooting, Willamette Week

Back when he was still in charge of the police, city Commissioner Dan Saltzman was making noise about drug-testing for cops.

Disturbed by a widening FBI steroid investigation that began in the Canby cop shop and that has spread to neighboring agencies, Saltzman told KOIN 6 he wanted to make drug testing part of ongoing contract negotiations with the police union.

Now that Mayor Sam Adams has taken over running the police bureau, will he pursue Saltzman's idea? We have a message in to Adams' office to find out. Meanwhile, here's where the situation now stands in Portland and a handful of other cities.

Here in Portland, police are drug-tested as part of the hiring process. That test includes a wide range of illegal drugs, but it does not include steroids, says Sean Murray, human-resources manager at the police bureau. How often do cadets fail the test? Murray said none have during his three years on the job.

In addition to testing during the hiring process, Portland cops are tested for drugs when there's "reasonable suspicion" they might be using, Murray says.

Saltzman's plan was to expand those drug tests to include steroids, says Brendan Finn, Saltzman's chief of staff. In addition, Finn says Saltzman wanted to start drug-testing cops if they're involved in a shooting that causes injury or death, or after a car crash that causes serious injury or death.

Dave Dobler, interim head of the police union, says any changes to the drug-testing policy for officers would have to come through bargaining.

"Any decision would have to be run through the negotiation team and the membership before we agree to any changes on that," Dobler says.

How does Portland's policy stack up elsewhere? We surveyed a handful of police departments in similar-sized cities.

Seattle has essentially the same policy as Portland. The city screens new hires, and also tests officers if there's reasonable suspicion they're using. But unlike Portland, the screening for new hires includes steroids.

In Kansas City, Mo., officials screen new hires and perform random tests throughout an officer's career. "We're always drug-testing our people," says Capt. Rich Lockhart. (Kansas City didn't respond to requests about whether those tests include steriods.)

And in Cincinnati, like Kansas City, officials do pre-employment screening and random monthly drug tests. (They also didn't get back to us about whether those tests include steroids.)

Still waiting for that call back from Adams' office. And we're not the only ones asking this question.
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