H-SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY

Feb 6, 2013 9:20 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

No drug testing for local law enforcement

"We're obviously held to a higher standard which we should be because we enforce the laws and as you mentioned the drug laws," said San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson.

Local law enforcement leaders are questioning their own drug testing policies Wednesday.

Those concerns are surfacing after the arrest of one of their own.
San Luis Obispo police officer Cory Pierce was arrested by the FBI Tuesday in Santa Maria.

According to a federal criminal complaint, he's accused of selling, stealing and using drugs while working for the Sheriff's Narcotics Unit.
That's one of several Central Coast law enforcement departments that do not conduct random drug tests on officers.

All departments do conduct pre-employment screening, but up until now, they didn't feel they needed on the job testing. However, after Tuesday's bust, both the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office and the San Luis Obispo Police Department are making some changes.

"Currently when employees are hired they go through a medical test and a drug test," said Sheriff Ian Parkinson.

But once they're on the force, officers are no longer tested for drug use.

"During our policy review we found out this city has never had a for-cause drug testing policy," said San Luis Obispo Police Chief Stephen Gesell.

That means even if there was evidence that an officer was under the influence of drugs, there is no legal way to test for it.

"You've got to have the policies, there's privacy issues, public and private when it pertains to drug testing," said Gesell.

And it's not just the policies either; drug testing has its costs.

"You're sending it out to a lab, depending on the size of your agency and the number of tests you do per year, there is a cost," said Parkinson.

But both agencies agree, the benefits out way those costs.

"I absolutely think it's worth the expense," said Parkinson, "It's going to be a little more expensive and it's going to be a little more challenging especially in today's budget but it's worth it."

The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office met today to discuss policy changes to include drug testing and the San Luis Obispo Police Department has been working for a year to include such policies, which will go into effect next month.

After the news of Cory Pierce's arrest yesterday, members of the narcotics and gang unit at the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office asked to be drug tested to prove their integrity.
According to the sheriff, everyone passed.
As for Pierce, he has posted a $25,000 bail.

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