After recent reports that two Massachusetts state troopers were allegedly using drugs when they were arrested, State Police officials admitted they have drastically cut back on drug testing in recent years.
Four years ago, the department was testing every trooper, supervisor, and commander at least once every two years, conducting 1,300 random and scheduled drug tests per year. But this year, to save money, the department will test only six to eight percent of the total work force, conducting no more than 200 random tests on its 2,333 employees. “This level of testing is not going to act as a deterrent,” said Nancy N. Delogu, counsel for the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace.
Questions have been raised about the State Police drug testing policy since two troopers were arrested for what appear to be drug-related incidents within two weeks of each other.
Trooper Christopher P. Shields, a 16-year veteran, was arrested at a Worcester substance abuse treatment center and charged with walking into a pharmacy on the day after Christmas, showing a handgun, and handing the clerk a note that said, “I want all the OxyContin.” Shields, who had been on medical leave since Octoer after injuring his back in a fall at the Weston barracks, allegedly got away with three partially filled bottles of the powerful painkiller. He was accused of being the pharmacy robber after he was arrested on shoplifting charges at a market two weeks ago.
In the same week, State Police Sergeant Timothy White, a former department spokesman and member of the State Police narcotics unit, was charged with assault with intent to murder after allegedly putting a gun in his wife’s mouth during a domestic dispute that prosecutors said was fueled by cocaine and marijuana use.
Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley and State Police Colonel Thomas Foley called the arrests a coincidence and said they did not believe it was indicative of a wider problem with drugs in the department.
Lieutenant Marian McGovern, a State Police spokesperson, defended the State Police drug testing program, saying it follows federal guidelines and takes into account tight budgets that have been strained following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.