Police push on with targeted drug tests

June 4, 2007 - 7:49PM

Victoria Police commanders will forge ahead with plans to introduce drug testing for serving officers despite the opposition of the state's powerful police union.

Negotiations over a plan to introduce drug testing for Victorian police appear to have stalled, with force command and the Police Association unable to agree on the method of testing to be used.

Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon wants a system offering an amnesty and treatment for those who admit to using drugs and targeted testing of police suspected of taking illegal drugs.

Those caught through urine tests would face a professional standards assessment panel that could recommend sanctions, including dismissal and criminal charges.

Similar systems are in place in NSW and the Australian Federal Police.

Police Association secretary Paul Mullett supports a voluntary-based, welfare-driven system that includes testing following critical incidents.

Police have already implemented welfare-based testing.

In a statement today, a spokesman for Victoria Police said the force was obliged to its workforce and the community to ensure police were drug- and alcohol-free, and was prepared to press on with or without the union.

The force was waiting on changes to legislation expected later this year, he said.

"We have been in discussions for some time with the Police Association around the issue and we are still hopeful of a resolution," the spokesman said.

"We are in discussions with the government over legislation which would introduce critical incident testing, targeted testing and fitness for work testing. Targeted testing would be evidence-based."

Premier Steve Bracks said today force command had the government's support.

"Our position all along has been that a drug testing regime which the police commander or the commissioner develops should be supported and so we are waiting on the details of that, and once that is developed, of course, it will have our support as a government," Mr Bracks told reporters.

"If legislation is required we will put that legislation in."

But Mr Mullett said police command would be going against the current industrial agreement and a signed letter from Ms Nixon to the union in 2002 if it goes it alone.

"We support Victoria Police introducing welfare-based and critical incident testing and we support the chief commissioner's view in the 2002 letter that they require legislative changes to implement those two types of testing," he said.

"We further support the view in the signed letter that there needs to be a pilot before other forms of testing are introduced.

"This is a major credibility issue. Victoria Police must comply with our agreements and that signed letter."