Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Debate on Hair Drug Tests

Suit by Seven black Boston police officers one of many challenges nationwide

BOSTON - 7 police officers swore they didn’t use cocaine, yet their hair tested positive for the drug. The officers - all of them black - were promptly fired or suspended.
“I was in complete and utter shock,”
said Officer Shawn Noel Harris.
“I know that I never used drugs a day in my life.”
The Boston officers are now suing the police department, claiming the mandatory drug test is unreliable and racially biased. They say hair testing is unfair because drug compounds show up more readily in dark hair than light hair.

Their civil rights lawsuit is one of many legal challenges against hair drug tests, which are used by companies and police departments nationwide. Employers like the test because it can detect drugs up to three months after use; urine tests go back only a few days and can be easily altered.But studies have found dark-haired people are more likely to test positive for drugs because they have higher levels of melanin, which allows drug compounds to bind more easily to their hair.

The Boston lawsuit says the officers may have had some kind of environmental exposure to cocaine, but that they didn’t use the drug themselves. The former officers are seeking reinstatement to their jobs, back pay, and unspecified damages...

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