Many police administrators confront a critical personnel problem that, until recently, has rarely been discussed--illicit drug use among police officers. While this problem requires the immediate attention of department administrators, who must act to eliminate drug use within their agencies, the approach to the problem must be tempered with caution. Clearly, unless administrators gain the employees' support prior to implementing a drug testing policy, employee dissatisfaction and low morale may result. Securing employee support could mean the difference between success and failure of a specific program.
When the chief of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Police Department considered implementing a drug testing policy, he first surveyed officers to determine their attitudes on the issue. This helped to identify possible problem areas before any major action was taken. It also made the officers feel a part of the decision making process concerning a policy that would impact all of them.
The survey began with a carefully worded appeal for the officers' assistance in developing a departmentwide drug testing policy. In part, this appeal read as follows:
"It is my intention to solicit your views and opinions on the subject of drug testing for all members of the police department. The idea of such a policy is not borne of distrust, but of the need to design a program in the spirit of cooperative effort, that will yield a policy that can be conducted fairly, with adequate safeguards for protection of privacy and dignity for all members of the department...It is our concern for the need to balance the private interests of those affected against the need to maintain the public trust, and the highest level of public safety service for our citizens. To assist us in this endeavor, please respond to the following survey."|1~ The officers were then asked to answer nine questions designed to determine whether they believed that illicit drug use existed among sworn personnel, how they viewed the implementation of drug testing, and under what circumstances they believed drug testing would be appropriate.
One hundred ninety-four of 344 officers responded to the survey. Sixty-one percent believed that a substance abuse problem existed within the department, 86 percent favored a drug testing policy, and 65 percent favored a random drug testing policy.
The survey further revealed that members of the department who responded to the survey were in favor of a firm drug testing policy, based upon specific complaint and reasonable suspicion. Sixty-six percent of the respondents did not favor any "adequate notice" primer to random drug testing. The majority also believed that mandatory testing should exist for new applicants, officers involved in accidents where serious bodily injury or death occurs, and as a regular requirement for members of the Vice/Narcotics Division.
Developing a Policy
After determining how officers felt on key issues of a drug testing policy, the Planning and Research Unit drafted three proposals. The first proposal was based on a literature study on drug testing, the second was taken from the IACP Model Drug Testing Policy but was adapted to the particular needs of the Fort Wayne Police Department, and the third was adapted from the Chicago Police Department's Drug Testing …