POLICE could be forced to submit to hair tests for signs of illicit drug use.
Officers are already subject to random drug tests, via urine samples, under a policy introduced five years ago.
But hair tests can uncover signs of drugs that have been used as far back as six weeks before the hair is extracted.
The hair test is likely to be an option only where an officer is already suspected of drug use, and would not be used randomly.
Positive drug tests across the force remain low.
But suspicions that officers who are concentrated in particular areas of the force are using illicit drugs has been a factor leading to talks among police command about toughening up the drug-testing regimen.
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Talks are under way between senior police, the State Government and the Police Association.
Victoria Police confirmed yesterday it was discussing the new Police Regulations Act, including the drug-testing policy, with the Department of Justice and the Police Association.
"Victoria Police does not tolerate illicit drugs in the force and the safety of the community is our No.1 priority," Deputy Commissioner Lucinda Nolan said.
Ms Nolan said discussions were preliminary and she could not comment further.
Any change to the Act is a matter for State Parliament.
Police Association secretary Greg Davies said police did not want to work with people affected by drugs or alcohol, but any testing system had to be fair.
"We don't want dolphins getting caught in the net with the tuna," he said.
There are currently four categories of testing of police in Victoria.
They are examinations of members suspected of drug or alcohol abuse; compulsory testing of members involved in critical incidents such as police shootings and pursuits; testing of high-risk sectors of the force; and tests as part of performance management.
Drug and alcohol use by on-duty officers carries significant risks.
There is the increased danger of bad decisions being made at critical times. In some cases, investigations could have been jeopardised and the safety of other members compromised.
Use of cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, cannabis, steroids and alcohol have been detected since tests began in August 2008.
Associations with outlaw motorcycle gang members have been alleged and, in at least one case, proved.
State government spokesman Les White said: "The Victorian public expects Victoria Police to uphold the highest standards of conduct and behaviour in line with the respected position they hold in the community.
"The Government has full confidence in the Chief Commissioner to operationally maintain these high standards within the force."
Author: Mark Buttler, Herald Sun
Date: February 18, 2013
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