Local law enforcement agencies don't drug test consistently




Posted on June 20, 2014 at 7:11 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 20 at 7:23 PM

SEATTLE -- In the wake of Thursday's arrest of an elite member of the King County SWAT team, the question has been raised: what about drug testing for law enforcement officers?  When is it done?  And how often? 

The answer is rarely, if ever.

"Any illegal drug use of my employees is wrong and I'm going to take care of it.  I'm going to root it out and I'm certainly not going to tolerate it," said King County Sheriff John Urquhart.

Strong words less than 24 hours after news broke about 49-year-old Darien Holiwell, the elite SWAT member accused of prostitution and using and distributing steroids.

The issue: The Sheriff's Office rarely drug tests, especially when it comes to steroids, which can be legally prescribed.

"There's only so much we can ask, which is basically nothing.  We can't ask about someone's medical condition and especially what drugs they've been prescribed," Urquhart added.
The office doesn't drug test for illegal drugs or steroids when you apply for a job either, using a polygraph instead.  And once on the force, they can't do random drug testing because of union contracts. That's been negotiated out for decades.  It's the same story for Seattle Police Department with their union, and the sheriff said that's the standard for most law enforcement agencies across the country.

"We need to include steroids as something that we're testing for because we need to know,” said Fremont business owner Pete Hanning, who sits on the North Precinct Advisory Council.

For years Hanning has been vocal about the need for drug testing, especially steroids, and is trying to get language put into the new union contract.

"We should always have the most amount of tools in our tool box to understand what happened or what are the things we need to do to help people," he said.

The sheriff said he suspects about six deputies of using steroids and that's just not enough to warrant random drug testing.  But both deputies and police can drug test when they have reasonable suspicion any of their employees has been affected by drugs or alcohol.