- Associated Press - Thursday, January 7, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A proposed change to Alaska’s police hiring standards would allow potential officers to have previously used prescription drugs not prescribed to them, a move that now disqualifies them from consideration for the job for 10 years.

The standard being proposed by the Alaska Police Standards Council would permit prescription drug use under “an exigent circumstance” that justified the use and would only extend back five years, The Alaska Dispatch News reported (https://bit.ly/1mDxHHC).

“The council’s logic was there are situations in a person’s life where they get injured or hurt and they have access to a spouse’s or a friend’s pain medications, and they take it. Eight years later, they apply for a police position, or a corrections position, and they’ve been excluded because of that,” said APSC Executive Director Bob Griffiths.

The council had heard from police departments that a large number of qualified applicants were not making the cut because they had previously used a painkiller. Public safety officials wanted more discretion when considering a candidate’s past drug use, said Griffiths.

“This proposal would be a step in the right direction,” said Alaska State Troopers recruitment Lt. James Helgoe. “If a person’s only done it once, we at the Department of Public Safety, and the Alaska State Troopers, especially me, think there needs to be some relief to this problem, or a more common-sense approach.”

As it stands, marijuana is the only controlled substance that would not disqualify a potential candidate from getting hired if they used it in the last 10 years before applying. Nome Police Chief John Papasodora said the current regulations do not allow for the review of prescription drug use.

“It’s very black and white right now,” he said. The potential change “gives us the ability to review those kinds of events to determine if they’re exigent and fit within the regulation. A person may deserve additional consideration.”

Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said the department does not believe the policy change would have a big effect on its pool of eligible applicants.

“We don’t come across this situation as much, where someone needs medical attention and they didn’t have the ability to do so,” Castro said. “If you have the ability to get proper health care, we wouldn’t consider that an exigent circumstance.”

The drug issue is one of several proposals by APSC that involve changes to Title 13 of the Alaska Administrative Code. Among the proposed changes are requiring departments to notify the council of alleged misconduct by an officer and requiring applicants pass a psychological exam before being hired.

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com


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