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FORCE SACKS COCAINE COP; Police get tough on drug abuse.

Byline: CAROLINE WHEELER

A POLICE officer has been sacked for using cocaine and another has been dismissed for being drunk on duty.

West Midlands Police made the shock revelations as it unveiled tough new measures to crack down on drug and alcohol abuse in the force.

Now all its new police recruits will have their urine tested for illegal substances including amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, cocaine and methadone.

And it is not only probationers who will be affected. Top brass and those in sensitive posts will also face an annual drugs test.

They will include all firearms officers, operational command unit bosses, tactical advisers, crime managers, air support staff and undercover officers.

West Midlands Police has already weeded out one cop for taking cocaine and another has been sacked for being drunk. Five recruits have also been booted out after testing positive for cannabis.

Laraine Williams, occupational health, safety and welfare policy manager for West Midlands Police, said the force was pioneering in the battle to keep its officers clean.

'We started looking at alcohol and drugs testing in 1999 when the idea was first touted by the Home Office,' she said.

'We were one of the first forces in the country to introduce an Alcohol and Drugs Misuse Policy but now many more are beginning to follow suit.'

Ms Williams said that the testing policy had so far been a huge success.

'We test all new recruits, officers who are in sensitive positions and those who are promoted to a position of responsibility,' she said.

'Staff members who are considered a 'just cause' -when we receive intelligence that they have been involved in illegal drug abuse or alcohol misuse -are also tested.

'We carry out dozens of drug tests a day and they very, very rarely come back positive.

'Since we began testing we have only had one positive result for cocaine and only one officer has been found with excessive levels of alcohol in the blood.

'However, we have had several recruits who have tested positive for cannabis, and whowe have decided not to take on.

'If we have a test come back positive, we immediately carry out a risk assessment and then we make a decision as to how to take the matter forward.

'This could take the form of a rehabilitation programme or disciplinary procedure.'

Urine tests are carried out in a specially adapted occupational health unit. Officers are asked to produce a sample in a cup, which is temperature-controlled to ensure it could not have been contaminated.

Two urine samples, tested by Derbybased Scientifics, are taken so that one can be re-tested if the first is positive and the officer wishes to appeal.

If the force suspects any possible long-term drug abuse, it can then ask the officer to undergo a groundbreaking hair strand test.

The DNA hair tests are carried out by Cardiff-based TrichoTech, who claim that they are taking on more and more contracts for workplace drug testing.

A company spokesman said: 'This kind of procedure is still in its infancybut we are seeing a greater demand for drug testing in the workplace.

'The good thing about a hair test is that it can give the employer more information about the individual's long-term drug-taking habits.

'As one employer once said to me: 'I wouldn't accept a three-day CV, so why should I accept the results of a urine test which will only take into account the individual's behaviour for the past few days'.'

'West Midlands Police is one of the first UK forces to come to us. It has been pioneering in its drug and alcohol misuse policy.'

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TEST: Ann Smith testing for drugs and alcohol at Lloyd House
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 25, 2004
Words:617
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