NT Police Association president Paul McCue says mandatory drug and alcohol testing in the Territory is “inevitable” but likely won’t be implemented before 2022, when a new collective agreement is finalised.
The NT is the only jurisdiction in the country that doesn’t mandate police undergo drug and alcohol testing, but pressure has grown to change that after two officers were charged with drug-related offences over the weekend.
“Every member we speak with has no issue with drug and alcohol testing,” Mr McCue told ABC Radio on Tuesday. “I don’t think there is any issue with having a process in place that ascertains drug and alcohol testing from time to time.
“It is all around having a safe workplace… police play an important role in the community.”
But in a statement to the NT Independent, Mr McCue said that drug testing of officers would constitute a “significant change to the industrial landscape for our members” and that talks about testing could “resume in the near future” but is unlikely to come into effect before the new contracts are finalised between police and the government in 2022.
“The NTPA anticipates entering into specific negotiations around mandatory drug and alcohol testing in the near future, but it is likely a formal agreement would not be finalised until Consent Agreement negotiations,” he said.
“The Northern Territory Police Association (NTPA) appreciates this incident has placed the concept of mandatory drug and alcohol testing of our members back on the agenda, but as this is an industrial issue, the framework should be addressed during Consent Agreement negotiations.”
Chief Minister Michael Gunner supports testing, but it would be an ‘expensive exercise’
On Friday, a 43-year-old male officer and 28-year-old female officer were charged with drug offences and suspended without pay following a raid in Palmerston.
In a press conference the next day, Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage said it was alleged the male officer was dealing cocaine to the female officer and at least one of the offences allegedly happened while the pair were on duty.
The Deputy Commissioner stressed the officers were not dealing drugs to the community and said police were pursuing the source.
Amid calls for NT Police to be tested, a number of officers have told the NT Independent that drug activity among Territory police officers is exceptionally rare.
Yesterday, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said there is “probably no reason” to drug test NT public servants, due to a “significant amount of expense”.
But he said there is “some sense as to why you would test” police because they are in charge of the justice system.
Mr Gunner said he supports changing the rules to permit drug-testing of officers and would legislate it if necessary. But it appears that would also not happen before 2022.
Police Minister Nicole Manison says testing needs to be practical
Police Minister Nicole Manison said the NT is at odds with the rest of the country in regards to drug and alcohol testing, adding if it was introduced it would need to be practical.
“We are the only jurisdiction that does not have [testing] in the force, but it is a conversation I would need to have with the senior management of the Police Association because if it is to be introduced we need to make sure there is agreement and we want to make sure it is a practical system that works,” she told ABC Radio Darwin yesterday.
The NSW Government began implementing drug tests for police officers in the late 1990s, following a recommendation by the Wood Royal Commission, which sought to determine the existence and extent of corruption within the New South Wales Police.
In a special report concerning illicit drug use by Victoria Police officers from 2016, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission found “police use of illicit drugs adversely impacts the safety of the community and undermines the community’s level of trust and respect for police and the law”.
‘The devil is in the detail’: Association president Paul McCue
NT Police Association president Paul McCue said testing of the force has been on the table for years.
“We’ve been in discussion over the past several years with the commissioner and government around this issue,” Mr McCue told ABC Radio this morning.
“We support a carefully designed regime that effectively supports the health and wellbeing of members but as always the devil is in the detail.”
Mr McCue raised concerns which include how samples would be taken and what is expected of officers would need to be hashed out before testing becomes mandatory.
“It is not always a deliberate act, people can be on strong medication, you can have false positives, there are a whole range of issues to consider when we are talking about drug and alcohol testing,” he said.