Mandatory drug testing for law enforcers is now law
»Governor cites ‘special need, compelling interest’ to do so
Gov. Eloy S. Inos signed into law a nine-month-old bill requiring annual mandatory drug tests for law enforcement officers, recognizing “several incidents of illegal drug abuse involving law enforcement as well as the fact that many of these employees carry firearms and hold safety-sensitive functions.”
In signing House Bill 18-101 into Public Law 18-47 on Thursday, the governor said the measure supports the conclusion that the Commonwealth government has a “special need” or “compelling interest” to authorize annual mandatory drug test for law enforcement officers.
For years, the CNMI has seen several incidents wherein police officers, firefighters, corrections officers, customs officers and other law enforcement or employees of regulatory agencies have been convicted or charged with committing illegal drug use or trafficking-related offenses.
Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero (Cov-Saipan), main author of the bill, said Sunday the new law would help deter and detect drug abuse among law enforcement personnel, and keep the public’s perception of law enforcement agencies as drug-free zones.
While he approved the bill, the governor told the Legislature to be cognizant that the measure amends a certain provision of the Personnel Service System Rules and Regulations, particularly NMIAC 10-20.2-424(d), which applies only to CNMI civil service employees.
“Therefore, the mandatory drug testing provisions required pursuant to this bill will only apply to law enforcement officers in the civil service, including DPS police officers, DPS firefighters and DOC corrections officers, among others,” the governor said in his April 24 transmittal letter to legislative leaders.
Leon Guerrero said the governor’s concerns are addressed in a separate legislation he introduced.
The governor’s signing of PL 18-47 came a few days after he vetoed another of Leon Guerrero’s bill, HB 18-152, requiring elected public officials to submit to drug testing for controlled substances. Inos said that bill may violate constitutional rights and is “vague and problematic.”
“Unlike House Bill No. 18-152, which I vetoed, this bill supports the conclusion that the Commonwealth government has a ‘special need’ or compelling interest to authorize annual mandatory drug tests for law enforcement officers…” the governor said in signing HB 18-101.
Leon Guerrero said Sunday he will still seek support from his fellow lawmakers to override the governor’s veto of HB 18-152.
The lawmaker also said he’s thankful for the governor’s statements to the media in January that his administration will reprogram funds to ensure law enforcement personnel will undergo mandatory annual drug testing.
“I thank the governor for saying that funding is not a problem,” Leon Guerrero added.
Office of Personnel Management director Isidro Seman earlier said OPM needs “at least $14,000 to $15,000 a year” to administer random drug testing, but this is inclusive of everyone, not only law enforcement personnel.
Shortly after that, the governor said he believes the amount estimated by OPM is a “drop in the bucket,” and not funding the program is not worth the risk, especially among law enforcement agencies.
Each drug test costs $30 to $40.
Under the new law, subject to funding, “100 percent of law enforcement officers” each year is required to submit to urine testing for drugs. These include urine tests for cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, and phenycyclidine.
The testing will be done during on-duty time and the government shall pay for the testing unless otherwise provided.
Leon Guerrero also commended the Commonwealth Ports Authority for taking the initiative to conduct a random drug testing across-the-board, and hopes that other independent agencies will do the same.
The OPM director earlier confirmed that not one agency had been subjected to random drug testing last year over lack of funds. This statement was made days after DPS Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero and Customs Services Division director Joe Mafnas told senators that none of their personnel underwent random drug testing in at least a year.