Chief constables back drug tests

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POLICE RECRUITS and specialist officers, such as gunmen and high speed pursuit drivers, will have to undergo compulsory drugs tests, under plans expected to be announced shortly.

A police and Home Office working party are also considering whether all serving officers and civilians should also be screened, although this measure is believed to be more problematic.

A number of large metropolitan forces are planning to join Merseyside Police which currently has a drugs screening programme for new recruits and officers working in areas such as firearms, as well as those seeking promotion.

The move to roll this out to all forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is being examined by the Health Safety and Welfare committee at the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The committee is believed to support the introduction of compulsory random tests for all recruits. The new officers would have to under-go a series of tests throughout their probation period.

The measure could be introduced within the next 12 months, providing it gets the go-ahead from all chief constables.

The Acpo committee is also expected to back proposals for a drug support system in which officers with a habit could seek counselling and support, rather than facing the sack. A third measure being considered is to test officers working in high risk areas, such as firearms or high speed pursuit. This too is expected to get the go-ahead.

A fourth measure to compulsory random test all 160,000 officers and support staff is expected to prove more controversial, with the possibility of legal challenges and opposition from rank and file members. An Acpo spokesman said a final report on drug testing was still being finalised.