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NEWS > 01 August 2008

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NEWS.com.au - Australia
01 August 2008
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Australia: Victorian ethical s

ETHICAL standards police will be the first tested for illicit drugs under a contentious new Victoria Police policy.

From this month, cops thought to be abusing drugs or alcohol will face urine tests at work without warning.

A list of suspected police drug takers will be checked as a priority when the process starts on August 18.

ESD and other units whose members are deemed vulnerable to drug abuse will follow.

The regime will test the increasingly tense relationship between force command and the Police Association.

Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius will be the first to submit to a test, declaring no rank would be exempt.

"Be assured that our profiling is conducted without regard to rank, position or privilege," Mr Cornelius said.

"This process is completely blind to rank. I've made it clear I want to be at the head of the queue of people tested."

Mr Cornelius' department, ESD, will follow suit.

"It might be said we are a workplace that may be identified as a high-risk workplace, so we'd be willing to put our hand up," he said

Police will be subjected to testing based on tip-offs.

Those involved in critical incidents, such as a shooting or a car chase, could also be tested, along with members in high-risk units.

Mr Cornelius expected a vast majority of police would be willing to comply with testing and played down the risk of drug abuse by members of the drug investigation unit.

"I'd be very surprised if there were any members in the drug squad who had anything to hide," he said.

"Drugs squad members operate in an area of high risk and I am very sure everyone in the drug squad would be prepared to be held accountable."

Mr Cornelius urged police with problems to be open and get help, or risk exposure.

The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine will analyse samples at a cost believed to be between $170 and $220 a test.

Police say the cost of the program will depend on the number of tests, but would not divulge budget estimates.

The move has inflamed tensions with the Police Association in a week where secretary Sen-Sgt Paul Mullett was suspended over perjury charges.

Association boss Greg Davies was unaware of a hit list.

"We would hope they have a very sound basis for that, and perhaps they might have taken other proactive steps before they drug-tested them," Sen-Sgt Davies said.

He said the association had been left out of the loop on plans to introduce the laws.

Police say they intended to only conduct targeted testing, but Sen-Sgt Davies was sceptical.

"We're not opposed to welfare-based or critical incident testing, but we've always been sceptical of the requirement for random testing when it has been a proved failure interstate," he said.

"There are certainly some curious aspects to the policy.

"We still fail to see why a passenger in a police vehicle involved in a pursuit should be drug or alcohol tested."

 

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