Springettsbury Township's police officers will now be subject to random drug testing, starting July 1, township Police Chief Tom Hyers said.
"I think it's a powerful statement made by the officers of this department," the chief said. "In this day and age, there's no reason first responders shouldn't be tested — if they can work out a policy that is fair and comprehensive. And that's what we were able to do here."
Hyers said the new policy is a collaborative effort by the police command staff, township administration and the police union's leaders.
"I am really proud," he said of the rank-and-file's willingness to support drug testing. "It goes to their integrity and their professionalism."
Hyers, who spent a 25-year career with Philadelphia Police before being hired by Springettsbury Township, said the Philadelphia Police Department has a drug-testing policy for officers.
The chief said it's been one of his goals to institute drug testing for Springetts officers, in an effort to be more transparent to citizens.
"It does build public confidence and trust," he said. "So many other professions are tested. Pilots are tested, truckers are tested."
'Zero tolerance': The tests will look not only for illegal drugs, but also for prescription drugs being used illegally, according to Hyers.
"There is a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drug use," he said.
An officer who tests positive for illicit drugs will go through a review process to determine his or her professional fate, Hyers said.
"We would have to look at each situation individually," he said.
It took about five months to develop the new drug-testing policy, which was approved a few weeks ago, Hyers said.
"This is not only happening in Springettsbury, but all over the country," he said. "I just want to make sure that we have a drug-free police force, which I fully believe we have. And I want to make sure the citizenry has faith in our officers."
No state law: Pennsylvania has no law mandating such testing for police officers, according to York City Police Chief Wes Kahley, who is currently president of the York County Chiefs of Police Association.
"It's left up to each individual municipality and police agency as to how they handle it," he said.
There is no random testing for York City officers, but there are guidelines about when testing can be done, Kahley said, including any time an officer is promoted. Also tested are officers who serve in specialized units, such as the city's narcotics and neighborhood units.
Also, an officer can be tested if his or her supervisors suspect drug use, Kahley said.
"I personally believe that police officers should be subject to random drug screenings," he said.
Other departments: Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said his department doesn't randomly drug test officers, but can test officers if there's a reason to suspect drug use.
York Area Regional Police Chief Tom Gross said his department has an internal drug-use policy in place that does not include random drug testing.
Gross said he is comfortable with York Area Regional's current policy.
The West Manchester Township Police Department has been randomly drug-testing its officers for four or five years, township Police Chief Arthur Smith Jr. said.
"The guys haven't complained about it. In fact, they asked for it to occur, and the township accommodated them," Smith said. "They have no problem doing it because ... they're not doing anything (wrong)."
Like Hyers, Smith said random drug-testing of officers increases the public's confidence in its police department.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.