The City Council debated the use of random drug testing for city police officers and firefighters at its meeting Tuesday.
The issue stems from the arrest of a six-year member of the city Fire Department three weeks ago on a felony charge of crack cocaine possession. The firefighter, Justin Moran, 31, of Saratoga Springs was on involuntary medical leave from the Fire Department at the time of his arrest.
Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said he does not personally feel that random drug testing is needed in the Fire Department but agreed to explore the issue after Mayor Scott Johnson and Accounts Commissioner John Franck said they both thought testing should be done.
Mathiesen said the city Police Department does have a clause in the union contract calling for random drug testing but this has not been activated. He said he will be seeking input from the Saratoga Springs Police Benevolent Association on the issue.
“We don’t have a problem with illegal drugs in our Fire Department,” Mathiesen said, repeating that for the Police Department. But if the community wants random drug testing he will look carefully at the issue, including costs and the reliability of such testing.
“To me it’s a no brainer,” Franck said, noting city firefighters are now operating an ambulance and drive large fire trucks, sometimes at high speeds.
Johnson said he agreed with Franck. “I don’t think we have any option but to do random drug testing,” Johnson said.
“The city must be fully protected.”
Mathiesen said at present no drug testing is required of firefighters but he will be enacting baseline drug tests when new firefighters are hired. He added that if any police officer or firefighter was found to be using illegal drugs it would be a cause for termination.
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