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.
According to the new contract, the drug-testing language was modeled after the city of Bedford’s agreement with its police officers. It allows the city to test officers by blood or Breathalyzer, the contract said.
Under the provision, the city has the right to test new officers shortly after they are hired and any officer the city has “reasonable suspicion” to believe reported to work under the influence of an illegal drug or used an illegal drug in the recent past.
The city may also test any officer involved in a job-related accident that included an unsafe practice or violation of a safety rule that resulted in serious injury or serious property damage, the contract said.
Similar to a new contract between the city and its patrolmen, the superior officers have also agreed to allow the city to install GPS tracking devices in any superior officer’s police vehicle that contains a mobile data terminal. The contract said the city may, at some point in the future, add GPS to other vehicles used by officers “when technology acceptable to the police chief and union becomes available.”
City officials have said the monitoring devices are expected to lead to faster response times by giving dispatchers the ability to send the closest officers to emergencies and other service calls.
The tracking systems, called automatic vehicle locators in the police contracts, have been controversial in other cities that have approved their use. Some officers worry they will be used punitively to monitor their every move.
Police departments in Lowell and Somerville are already using GPS devices in cruisers and Boston is about to begin using them in its police fleet.
Fiorentini recently said it will be up to police Chief Alan DeNaro to decide when Haverhill’s GPS devices will be purchased and installed. DeNaro has said it’s up to Fiorentini to provide money to buy the equipment.
The new superior officers’ contract also ends the practice of allowing officers to cash in unused sick-leave time. Current officers will remain eligible for the so-called sick-time buy-back, but officers hired after July 1, 2014, will not be eligible for the benefit.
The new contract also includes a $50 per week pay increase for detective supervisors, and it allows the city to begin paying officers on a biweekly basis.