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RI ACLU Calls Proposed Providence Police Drug Testing Policy “Clearly Illegal”

Posted: March 08, 2010|Category: Privacy

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The RI ACLU has sharply blasted a plan announced today by Providence Mayor David Cicilline to “institute random drug testing in the Police Department effective immediately.” The ACLU said the proposal was “clearly illegal” and called it “sadly ironic” for the Department, “in the name of rooting out illegal activity by officers,” to propose a policy that, if implemented, would itself be a crime.

Below is the full statement issued today by RI ACLU executive director Steven Brown:

“The ACLU has long opposed random drug testing in employment on the grounds that it is unreliable, ineffective, an incredible invasion of privacy, and an extremely poor way to determine the job performance of employees. It is also clearly illegal.

“For more than twenty years, Rhode Island has greatly restricted the use of this degrading, intrusive and questionable procedure in the employment setting. State law explicitly bars drug testing of any employee unless the employer has reasonable grounds to believe that the employee’s use of controlled substances is impairing his or her ability on the job. The random drug testing proposal announced by the Mayor would be in clear violation of this law.

“Police officers, no less than other employees, deserve a right to privacy. Although the arrests that have led to the Mayor’s announcement are certainly troubling, drug testing is an extremely poor method of rooting out police corruption. Greed and dishonesty cannot be measured by analyzing urine in a cup or the hair on one’s head. Indeed, there is no compelling reason to believe that police officers violating their oath by dealing drugs are also taking drugs themselves.

“In short, this action is neither effective nor legal. Obviously, the Police Department can and should take appropriate action to deal with possible corruption in its ranks. But it would be sadly ironic if, in the name of rooting out illegal activity by officers, the City implemented a policy that itself is a crime. We therefore hope that the City will reexamine its decision before implementing such an ill-advised policy.”

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