Guttenberg’s police department is about to face random drug testing.
Public Safety Director Tom Richards announced last week that the township has implemented a plan, effective April 1, that will subject all of the township’s 25 uniformed officers to a testing procedure.
The plan is part of a state-mandated policy from the state attorney general’s office.
“The attorney general has set the guidelines for the test, and we’re just following the guidelines,” Richards said. “The test was just revised in November of last year, so it’s the first time it’s being done in Guttenberg.”
Richards recently gave the required 60-day notice to the members of his department, stating that all members should be on call and prepare to be tested.
It has not been determined when the procedures will take place and how many officers will be tested.
“We’re still working out a system as to how we will conduct the tests,” Richards said. “Everything will be kept in the strictest confidentiality.”
No names will be used to distinguish which officer may be called upon to test. Instead, the idea of using Social Security numbers that come up randomly is being entertained.
“If your number comes up, that’s just the luck of the draw,” Richards said. “Some officers may get called twice and others may not get called at all. It’s how it’s set up. But there’s not a case where we have any suspicions. We’re just following the guidelines. No officers are under suspicion for any reason.”
If any trace of drugs is found in the urine specimen of the officers, then another test will be ordered to insure the validity of the first test.
If the second test continues to show evidence of narcotics, then under the guidelines of the state attorney general’s office, the officer would then forfeit his position on the force and his name would be placed on a statewide list that prohibits the officer to serve in New Jersey.
Guttenberg has 18 regular police officers, six sergeants and two lieutenants on the force. Lt. Joseph Gryzbowski, the highest ranking superior officer on the force, and Sgt. Arthur Allgier have been certified as “specimen collectors” by the department, having successfully completed the training session coordinated by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
“They had to be trained to handle the procedure properly,” Richards said. “They will handle the collections.” A member of the police union will also be called in to insure the random selection process of the testing.
“I believe that a member of the union should be there to show that the tests are fair,” Richards said. Richards said that he spoke with Carlos Zaldivar, the president of the local Police Benevolent Association, and the officer’s union supports the program.
“If an officer is dirty, then they have the right to know as well,” Richards said. “I think they’re all for it.” Richards believes that the drug-testing program is a good thing for the department.
“It’s a different society than it was some 20 years ago,” Richards said. “I think every officer has a responsibility to be accounted for. It’s the type of profession where you have to maintain the highest standards. It’s all being done for precautionary reasons.”