Drug Test Students, Not Police


This week, the police chief in Eugene, OR, apologizes for a botched SWAT marijuana grow-op raid that yielded nothing but fear in local residents; Toronto, ON, police officers balk at the idea of being randomly drug tested; and President Bush's new anti-drug strategy targets prescription drug offenses, and massively boosting funding for student drug testing.

February 27- Oregon's Register-Guard reports: Eugene Police Chief Bob Lehner apologized Thursday night for a botched Metro SWAT team raid in 2002 that generated outrage among Whiteaker neighborhood residents and prompted a Eugene Police Commission policy review that is nearing completion. "I, as your new chief, regret what occurred," Lehner told about two dozen people attending a public hearing on the police commission's study. "It is through processes like this that we keep them from happening again."

Lehner's remarks drew a smattering of applause and came in response to a question from Whiteaker resident Kenneth Reed, who said several of his friends remain traumatized by the sight of 50 heavily armed police and a National Guard light armored vehicle converging on their neighborhood on a search for a marijuana grow.

However, no grow was found, no one was ever charged, and neighbors complained the operation posed unnecessary danger. They also said the officers involved were rude.

Eugene resident Peg Morton, 73, told the commission of her recollection of the rising police state she observed in Europe while living in Switzerland as a teenager and said citizens everywhere should beware of the growing police state in Eugene and across the country.

"What is happening with the SWAT team is what is happening all around the country," she said.

"I hope we'll keep that in mind."

March 1- The Calgary Sun reports: Forcing high-risk police officers to urinate into a cup is a ludicrous violation of human rights, says the head of Calgary's cop association. Sgt. Al Koenig says a recommendation that Toronto police officers be forced to undergo drug testing before being promoted or assigned to high-risk units like the drug squad is ridiculous and would never fly in Calgary.

"Police officers have the same rights as every other citizen in Canada," he said.

"To say they have to undergo mandatory drug testing when they show up at work just flies in the face of logic."

The mandatory drug test is one of 32 recommendations proposed last week by retired Ontario Supreme Court Judge George Ferguson, following a two-year investigation into curbing misconduct in Toronto's police force.

"Our job is tough enough trying to impose the laws that we've got, so to impose mandatory drug testing would make it easier to test our officers than it would for our officers to charge somebody with impaired driving," said Koenig.

"That just seems ludicrous to me."

March 1- Denver Post reports: President Bush's national anti-drug strategy, released today, for the first time targets the use of pain relievers, sedatives and stimulants for nonmedical purposes, a problem that has exploded in the last decade.

A key part of the new strategy involves government efforts to help states develop monitoring systems to track a patient's use of prescription medicine. The monitoring programs flag cases that indicate a pattern of abuse, such as "doctor shopping," where a patient gets prescriptions for drugs from multiple physicians.

Prescription medicine now ranks second, behind marijuana, among drugs most abused by adults and young people, said the report by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based group that promotes alternatives including the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, was skeptical of Bush's strategy. It saw unintended consequences that will end up causing more pain and suffering.

"The principal impact of this campaign when you step up the law enforcement response is that doctors will err on the side of under-treating pain," said alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann. "So any time a doctor is dealing with a patient in pain, their first instinct is not to prescribe enough." Since 1995, emergency room visits from prescription drug abuse have risen 163 percent, the report said.

Bush outlined other facets of his anti-drug strategy during his State of the Union address in January. His proposal to boost funding from $2 million to $23 million for student drug testing has come under fire from some parents, school administrators and civil liberties groups concerned about privacy violations and the effectiveness of the testing.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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