Bill calls for random drug tests for police, firefighters, troopers

Bill calls for random drug tests for police, firefighters, troopers »Play Video
Photo: Flickr user zeraien (CC License)
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Random drug tests could become a job requirement for police officers in the state of Washington.

The legislation is being introduced just days after a Seattle police officer took his own life when confronted about cocaine that didn't make it to an evidence locker.

Rep. Mike Hope, an officer with the Seattle Police Department, believes he and his co-workers should be randomly drug-tested on a routine basis.

Hope, R-Lake Stevens, plans to introduce a bill this week to require such tests not only for police, but also firefighters and state troopers as well.

"That way, you're not jeopardizing public safety across Washington state," he said.

Lawmakers have proposed similar bills in past years, but the suicide of Seattle Officer Rick Nelson last week brought it back to the forefront. Nelson was allowed to continue working in patrol even though Seattle police commanders say they suspected he was using drugs.

"Somebody thinks it's appropriate to allow somebody to go back to duty and carry a gun, and wear a badge, and drive a vehicle potentially intoxicated, and I don't think we should allow for that," said Hope.

The House will also consider a second bill by Hope requiring public safety agencies to place employees who use drugs on administrative leave immediately once probable cause is established.

Nelson was arrested after he failed a so-called "integrity test" when he didn't book cocaine into evidence and kept it for himself. He shot himself a few hours after his arrest.

"People could have reached out to that person, and that tragedy may not have happened," Hope said.

Hope says new police recruits must undergo drug testing, and there's no reason to stop there.

"We are a very professional group of people, and we also need to have high standards," he said.

Seattle police declined a request for an on-camera interview, and would only say their job is to enforce the law, not comment on proposals that belong under collective bargaining in union contracts.