No Reasonable Suspicion To Test Officer For Steroids

John Richard is a ten-year veteran of the Lafayette, Louisiana Police Department. Richard was friends with several individuals who became the target of a drug investigation by the Department. Department investigators raided the apartment of one of the suspects, and discovered both marijuana and steroids.

During an internal affairs investigation that followed, the Department ordered Richard to take a drug test. Richard tested positive for steroids, and was subsequently terminated. Richard challenged his termination through the court system.

A divided Louisiana Supreme Court concluded that, for two reasons, Richard’s drug test was invalid. First, the Court held that the drug test was not conducted pursuant to the Department’s own policy. The Department’s policy requires that, before a drug test can be ordered on the basis of reasonable suspicion, there must be a discussion between “the appointing authority and the substance abuse program manager.” Before ordering the drug test of Richard, the Police Chief made no attempt to coordinate the process with the City’s substance abuse program manager. In addition, the drug testing was not overseen by a “qualified medical review officer,” as required by the policy.

Beyond the procedural defects of the drug testing process, the Court found that there was no reasonable suspicion to test Richard. The Court observed that “there was no suggestion that Richard’s behavior suggested drug use. He had been with the Police Department since 1995. He was qualified as a defensive tactics instructor/trainer, an instructor with pepper spray, ground fighting, and active shooter.”

The Court was reluctant to conclude that Richard was guilty “by association.” Instead, the Court ruled that “suspicion of drug abuse sufficient to justify non-random testing should be particularized after the individual employee to be tested. The record is, at best, confused as to what the Chief knew at the time he ordered the testing. The City cannot rely on information acquired after the Chief ordered the test to justify his ordering the test. There was not a scintilla of evidence showing Richard exhibited substance or drug use.”

Richard v. Lafayette Fire and Police Civil Service Board, 2009 WL 307145 (La. 2009).

This article appears in the April 2009 issue