Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Toledo Officers Test Positive for Marijuana

The professional fate of four Toledo police officers who have been charged internally for misconduct related to drugs and alcohol will be decided at departmental hearings Monday, Chief Mike Navarre said Monday.

Officers Curtis Jewell and Karon Gallup, both uniformed patrol officers, face charges related to their failure of a random drug test, which indicated marijuana in their systems.

Officers Donald Mitchell and James W. Breier face criminal and departmental charges related to operating patrol vehicles while intoxicated.

The officers have been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of the hearing, Chief Navarre said.

"I think the public will look very closely at what we do with these cases," the chief said, adding that members of the department should also pay close attention to the cases. He would not comment on possible outcomes, only stating termination is a possibility.

Officer Jewell, 52, a 26-year veteran, and Officer Gallup, 42, who has worked for the department for the past 14 years, were internally charged Friday with illegal use or abuse of marijuana, willful violation, and conduct unbecoming an officer.

The officers were among 48 who were selected randomly Nov. 19 to submit to drug screens.

The testing marks the first time that rank-and-file officers have been subjected to random drug screening. Before the practice was allowed in the latest union contract with the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association in July, patrol officers only could be tested when there was "reasonable suspicion," Chief Navarre said.

He added that random drug testing will continue.

"We'll do it again," he said. "I'm not going to say when or what frequency."

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said the union agreed to the random drug testing as part of contract negotiations but questioned whether the department had the right to release the names of officers who failed the test. He said the officers signed medical release forms so results could be given to the department, but he believed the results were not public per laws protecting medical records.

"I believe the officers involved are poised to take action civilly against the city for releasing that information," he said, adding that the union may file a grievance.

Because the recent test was the first time the department randomly screened its officers for drugs, there is no precedent on disciplinary measures. Chief Navarre said that before the recent agreement, only command officers and officers assigned to the property room and vice narcotics could be randomly screened.

The chief added that he knew of no command officers who failed the test and of only one member of vice who failed nearly two decades ago.

That officer was terminated but was reinstated, after arbitration, without back pay and with certain conditions, he said. The officer, whom he declined to name, has since retired.

Officers Gallup and Jewell do not face criminal charges because the test was a condition of their employment and so it cannot be used in a criminal case, the chief said.

"We can't mandate someone give us evidence and then use it against them," he said.

Also facing internal charges are two officers who were arrested after it was determined they were drinking while on patrol duty.

Officer Mitchell, 45, is accused of showing up intoxicated for work Oct. 31. He was arrested after being called back from patrolling the streets after command was notified that something appeared to be wrong.

The month before, Officer Breier, 54, was arrested and accused of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol when he responded to a traffic crash and appeared to be intoxicated.

Both men face internal charges of use of intoxicants, willful violation, and conduct unbecoming a police officer. They also face misdemeanor criminal charges in Toledo Municipal Court, where both have pretrials on Thursday.

A third officer, Shawn Parra, 35, was off-duty and in his personal vehicle when he was involved in what reports allege was a drunken-driving crash in which he fled the scene. Officer Parra has been on vacation since the Thanksgiving-morning crash and likely will face departmental charges, the chief said.

Mr. Wagner said there is concern about the unusual number of incidents lately. He said the union is asking counselors with the Employee Assistance Program to speak to officers during training sessions.

"There may be some underlying factor. Is it because of the low manpower that our guys are experiencing stress and instead of going to a counselor, they are turning to other means?" he said.

Even the cops are doing marijuana! Time to legalize the shit and let it help the country recover from these bad times.

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