According to the State Appeals Court of Massachusetts, six cops busted for using cocaine between 2001 and 2006 were wrongfully terminated and should be reinstated with back pay. The officers, who were all African-American, claimed that they were victims of faulty drug tests that had a greater sensitivity to cocaine for black test subjects. The City of Boston fought the action by the officers, defending the drug tests as accurate.
The story of these six officers has been wrought with debate over the validity of hair drug tests. Lawyers for the six officers claim that the test was impartial to African-American hair. The appellate court agreed with them, thus, reinstated the officers to duty with full back pay. The officers had overcome a previous hurdle in 2013, when a lower court found them entitled to back pay dating to 2010. The new court’s decision supplemented the previous decision and gave the officers back pay from the dates of their termination.
“The City of Boston has been fighting for years to defend a scientifically unreliable and discriminatory drug-screening vehicle that resulted in the wrongful termination of a disproportionate number of African-American police officers,” stated Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice. While the debate goes on over the validity of the hair tests, the officers and their lawyers failed to address the fact that hundreds of other African-American officers at the Boston PD were drug tested with the very same tests – and passed. According to the appellate justices, “the six officers each presented a credible denial of drug use based on their testimony,” as well as “initial cocaine levels that were barely above the cutoff limit.”
One of the officers stated that he believed he failed the test because he used to have a habit of putting cocaine from drug suspects, in the same pocket as cookies he ate. Another of the six cops stated that he believed he failed the drug test because he “brushed white powder off his car seat,” which he believed was powdered sugar. Statements like this, from an interrogation perspective, are suspect at best. If you never used cocaine, you say you never used cocaine. You don’t make up stories about keeping drugs in your munchies pocket. While the six officers terminated may in fact be innocent, the test seemingly was accurate enough for the vast majority of the subjects to pass. Six officers in five years does not show a distinct pattern of failed drug tests to warrant anyone suspecting they are anything other than what they appear to be: failed drug tests.
The city of Boston is placed in a precarious position with this ruling. An appellate court has found that they were unable to determine the validity of the drug tests, stating that the test was not reliable enough and that the result given “is not necessarily conclusive of ingestion.” The problem with this is these same drug tests were used to violate the probation and parole status of drug violators. If the claims that the drug test are inaccurate, then how many innocent African-Americans went to jail for probation violations? Will the city stand up for them, as well?
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