NJ: Drug tests on cops upheld

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Ruling broadens prosecutor's powers

Herald News

An appellate court ruled Monday that Passaic County Prosecutor James F. Avigliano acted properly in 2004 when he ordered 10 police officers suspected of using steroids to undergo drug testing.

The appellate panel let stand a lower court ruling that clarifies Avigliano's power as the top law enforcement officer in the county to order any police officer employed by any police department in the county to take a drug test.

The decision broadens the power of the prosecutor to call for drug tests if there is a "reasonable suspicion" that a police officer is using illegal substances. Unions representing the 10 Passaic County police officers had argued that drug testing was a personnel issue, and that only the department that employed the police officer could order one.

Superior Court Judge Robert J. Passero sided with Avigliano, and on Monday the appellate panel upheld the decision. Avigliano said the use of any illegal substance by police officers would not be tolerated, but steroids pose a particular danger. "We know that steroids can cause mood swings and aggressive behavior among the people who use them," Avigliano said. "That's a pretty dangerous combination for an officer in law enforcement."

Avigliano ordered 10 police officers to submit urine samples as part of an investigation into steroid and cocaine use by police. Three were members of the Wayne Police Department and four were employed by the Passaic County Sheriff's Department.

Avigliano has refused to name the employers of the other three officers. He maintained Monday that the public has no right to know when police departments are conducting drug tests.

"The only reason people know that Wayne Police and the Passaic County Sheriff's Department was involved in this case is because they sued me," he said.

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