Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

FuzzRant: Drug Testing the Rozzers...

Note - from June 24th 2009, this blog has migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted version. Click here to go straight there.

Canuck asked the following question - apropos of my statement that it was obscene that the Police Union objects to its members being forced to submit to mandatory random drug tests, when they go about interfering with the public in precisely the same manner...

Do you have a source for this statement? I googled for a bit and could not find anything to support it?
"...when the Police union refuses to have its members submit to random drug tests"

The sentence in question (which I wrote in haste and rage) was poorly worded, and Canuck was right to ask for evidence in support. The Police Federation didn't "refuse", but they "objected" sufficiently vociferously that the proposal was pretty much dropped. It's a matter of semantics as to whether a threat of industrial action amounts to a 'refusal' to comply, or simply an 'objection', but the point is still that my original sentence is not accurate. (The response of the Police Federation actually gave the AWU some useful ammunition to help with its objections to broader workplace drug testing).

Amending to the more correctly-worded "objects" rather than the wrongly-phrased "refuses" (without detracting from the basis of the initial outrage): this from The Age (March 8, 2005)

"Police Association assistant secretary Bruce McKenzie said that while the association supported drug testing after critical incidents, random drug testing was draconian and an unnecessary breach of privacy. "It would have a demeaning effect on morale of our members if the Chief Commissioner sends a message . . . that she doesn't trust them," Mr McKenzie said.
NSW police involved in critical incidents have been tested for drugs and alcohol since 1998. The policy was introduced after two police who shot dead a mentally disturbed man armed with a knife were found to be cocaine users.
Mr Walshe said a proposal for full financial disclosure was still being negotiated, but might include the need for disclosure of joint financial activity between police officers and family members. It was still not decided whether all police, or only those in high-risk areas, would be subjected to the measure, he said."

The emphasis in the above was added by me: if the public were only subjected to testing 'after critical incidents' ( when involved in a crash, for instance) the world would be a fairer place and I would have no objection to the policy - there would be fewer instances of "draconian... uneccessary breach(es) of privacy".

The double standard is staggering - it's apparently perfectly OK to to stop citizens as they go about their ordinary business, but if an armed government enforcer is asked to submit to the same protocol it's 'draconian'.

In a supposedly 'free' society this is indefensible, and is part of the thin edge of the Police State wedge (a wedge that is inserted into the polity the moment you have a 'standing army' of armed men whose sole duty is to enforce the edicts of the government). It is part of preparing the public mentally for further eliminations of basic rights (like the presumption of innocence, the right to silence, the protection from unwarranted search and seizure, the right to face one's accusers, the right to a speedy trial... "Bill of Rights" issues).

I take pains to point out that I hardly ever drink, and I never drink and drive (not even a single glass of wine with a meal). But that ought to be my choice. If I was able to drink a half-bottle of Tequila before setting out to do my grocery shopping, and still drive in a manner which was not identifiably dangerous, there ought to be zero chance of being detained and tested.

The government ought to have no right to detain and/or test a member of the public unless that citizen gives the police probable cause to suspect that a law has been violated. Presumption of innocence is a crucial element of liberty (and 'innocence' here does not mean 'innocent of triggering some arbitrary blood-alcohol content' - it means innocent of causing any harm to anyone).

And it almost goes without saying, that if we are to accept the unacceptable and permit the public to be waylaid by armed government enforcers when they have done nothing obviously wrong, then members of the Police force must be held to a higher standard of accountability, since they are per se more dangerous on account of the loaded weaponry in their belt holsters.

Now if the police started to test based solely on the apparent behaviour of specific members of the public (those who are weaving all over the road and crashing into things), I would immediately support the Police Federation: a policeman - as a member of society rather than as an armed government enforcer - should not be subjected to intrusive examination of any sort without direct and communicable evidence of a likely offence. But while they go about infringing on the rights of the citizenry, they ought to be subject to being hoist by their own petard.