hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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March 6, 2014

Superior officers agree to drug tests by city

New contract makes them first union allowing such testing

Haverhill’s police superior officers have agreed to let the city test them for illegal drugs — a rule that Mayor James Fiorentini said he will push for in contract negotiations with Haverhill’s patrolmen and firefighters.

The drug-testing provision is part of a new contract negotiated by the mayor and the police superior officers union. The agreement was recently approved by the group’s approximately 20 members, and now heads to City Council for final approval.

The superior officers are the first public safety group to agree to allow the city to test their blood for illegal drugs, officials said.

The list of prohibited drugs the city may test for includes anabolic steroids, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and opiates. Some prescribed drugs may be allowed, depending on the discretion of the police chief, but the contract said abusing prescribed drugs will be treated the same as abusing illegal drugs.

Failure to submit to a drug test or cooperate with the testing laboratory shall be considered a positive test result, the contract said.

The contract, which covers four years from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2016, includes pay raises of 5.5 percent over that span.

The agreement also includes another 4.75 percent in retroactive pay increases to make up for larger pay increases given recently to police patrolmen and firefighters. The city gave the larger pay increases to resolve contract disputes with unions representing those workers.

City Solicitor William Cox said the city likely would have had to at least match monetary awards given to the patrolmen and firefighters had negotiations with the superior officers gone to arbitration, which was scheduled to begin tomorrow. As a result of the agreement, however, that arbitration session has been cancelled.

Spending to cover the superior officers’ contract is expected to be approved by City Council March 11.

Lt. Robert Pistone, president of the superior officers union, did not return a message seeking his comment for this story.

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