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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Tuesday, February 21

Public safety and drugs

Well, looks like public safety employees will be drug tested after all, "in the very near future," according to Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen in Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

That is different from where he was on the issue last week when he said he was not in favor of the tests. At the City Council meeting, though, Mathiesen said he still didn't think it was necessary, but "if it would make the community at large would feel safer" for having drug tests, he would look into it.

That comes after comments online and elsewhere against his position (probably from people who get drug tested at their own jobs and don't carry guns or drive at high rates of speed).

The commissioner said he would be evaluating how to implement random drug testing in the Saratoga Springs Police Department, because both the chief and the union said they were in favor of the idea.

As Police Benevolent Association President Paul Veitch said “I believe there should be a drug-testing policy because I don’t want someone with a narcotics problem working next to me," particularly when they are carrying guns.

"I haven't had anyone come up to me and say they were happy about that article in the paper," Accounts Commissioner John Franck said to Mathiesen at the City Council meeting. He was referring to my recent article regarding the public safety commissioner's stance on random drug testing. "I don't think anyone is going to be with you on this."

Of course all of the people at the table said they did not believe there is a drug problem in the department. "But if that is the case they shouldn't have a problem with it," Franck said.

Mathiesen reiterated his stance that the system in place works. That is, when the officers of the departments see a problem, they address it.

He didn't specifically name Justin Moran, but he said "I saw how well the department worked with the other situation." Being the only drug case in recent history in the department, I have to figure it was that (also based on previous comments he made in the story I already linked to). "I knew the background," he said. "I knew how effectively it was taken care of."

Franck pointed out that he had to submit to a drug test when he was hired at his accounting firm and that people at Walmart are drug tested.

"That doesn't make it ok, just because Walmart does it," Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said. She advised caution because of false-positive tests that could end a person's career.

"We don't want to kill anyone either," Franck said.

Mayor Scott Johnson also agreed with Franck (someone mark it down on the calender) about the need for drug testing. He said when firefighters are racing to the scene in their 20 ton (fire trucks range from 15 to 30 tons, I read) truck, "they are basically driving weapons."

When Franck kept citing Mathiesen's comments in The Saratogian's article, Mathiesen seemed to want to back away from it, saying something about how Franck should know not everything in the newspaper is accurately quoted. Of course, he didn't deny anything in the newspaper.

He said "I was asked if I supported random drug testing," something he said he does not. He said he was surprised by the question. "My reaction was 'What about cost? What about methods?'"

Mathiesen said he still doesn't support it, but "If the community feels otherwise we can look at it."

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Anonymous Arcpoint Austin said...

I feel that this is a public safety issue, drug testing needs to be something that is regulated.

March 28, 2012 at 1:03 PM 

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