Aug. 25, 2005 – Charging racial bias and unreliability, seven Boston, Massachusetts police officers are challenging their dismissal from the force following positive results of drug tests conducted on hair samples. Their lawsuit is but one of many recent legal attempts to void random drug testing on the grounds that the tests are discriminatory and violate privacy protections.
The officers, all of them black, filed a lawsuit in late July seeking to reverse the firings, basing much of the argument on claims that drug residue adheres more readily to the hair of dark-skinned people, the Boston Globe reported. All of the officers denied using drugs and all but one tested negative in subsequent probes, according to the Associated Press.
Boston Police Department policy mandates annual drug tests, the Globe said. The officers were dismissed as a result of positive test for cocaine. The firings took place in 2002, 2003 and 2004, according to the Globe.
The Boston suit states that the officers may have been exposed to drug residue in the course of their job. Yesterday, the AP reported that an officer who was fired last year in a similar case won reinstatement after the lab that conducted the test could not rule out environmental exposure.
According to reports that appeared in the journal Forensic Drug Abuse Advisor in the late 1990s, there is an appreciable difference between the hair of blacks and Caucasians and "there is no way to adequately control for the possibility of external contamination."