Police officers who appear red-eyed, woozy or simply a little "out of it" will be given surprise urine tests in the first program of its kind in the nation aimed at detecting illicit drug use, the Boston Police Department announced Tuesday.
"We're not going to march into the station house and shout, 'Freeze! Line up. Everyone take a urine test.' It won't be random," said spokesman Robert O'Toole. "But if someone is acting strange or out of it--and we've been around, so we know what to look for--they will be asked for a urine sample."
Gerald Arenberg, executive director of the American Federation of Police, called it a "pioneer program," and said he had not heard of anything similar elsewhere in the nation.
Boston police officials said their department is not beset by a major drug problem. The new program, O'Toole said, was the idea of new Commissioner Francis Roache, whose "key purpose is integrity."
"We're not saying we have junkies driving around in police cruisers," O'Toole said. "We're human like everyone else. Some of our officers use drugs.
"But we can't have that," he added. "Policemen on the road have to make split-second decisions with a lot of common sense and a lot of compassion."
When police union officials first heard about the plan, they said it sounded like "a witch hunt." But when they learned the details, they said they would not oppose the program as long as it focused only on officers who clearly appeared to use drugs.