New Haven police expand drug and alcohol policy; marijuana use remains prohibited for city cops – New Haven Register
The New Haven Police Department, located at 1 Union Ave.
NEW HAVEN — The Board of Police Commissioners approved a new drug and alcohol policy for the department this week, barring officers from using marijuana, despite it being legalized for recreational use in Connecticut.
The goal of the measure is to “deter the misuse or abuse of any legal or illegal substances that create a threat to the safety and health of any City employee or member of the public,” the policy says. But it leaves the door open for using products containing the marijuana derivative CBD.
Commissioner Tracey Meares and Capt. David Zannelli revised the standard, which was last updated in 2015, and presented it to the police commission at its Tuesday meeting.
Among other changes, Zannelli said the policy now specifically describes drug and alcohol testing procedures for supervisors and officers, which can be done on a random basis. It was also updated to reflect the ban on anabolic steroids included in the 2020 police accountability act; discusses prohibited conduct, such as purchasing illegal drugs online; and considers how to aid officers that may develop a drug dependency while doing undercover work.
He noted the measure had been expanded, going from three to 15 pages in length.
“It’s much more comprehensive,” said Zannelli.
Meares said the policy distinguishes between federally prohibited and controlled substances, prescription drugs and alcohol, which can be used up to a certain point by adults of legal drinking age.
Officers are barred from drinking intoxicating beverages “to an extent that it will render one unfit when reporting to duty” under the policy.
Meares noted that New Haven officers are still prohibited from using marijuana while employed by the department.
“Although it is now not illegal to possess cannabis in the state, it is not consistent with New Haven Police Department policy for officers to use that substance,” said Meares. “It’s important to highlight that, and that the policy is carefully written to both acknowledge it’s status in the state of Connecticut and the department’s policy with respect to the use of that substance.”
Under the Federal Gun Control Act of 1968, people using marijuana are prohibited from possessing firearms.
Officers have some flexibility to use Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, under the measure, although they can still be sanctioned for any positive drug tests resulting from such use. CBD, a chemical found in marijuana that does not produce a high, can be used to help treat anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
“In light of the easy access and non-psychoactive properties of CBD, the New Haven Department of Police Service does not view the use or possession of over-the-counter products containing CBD as constituting the illegal use or possession of marijuana,” the policy states. “However, officers must be cautious as to the substances (they) ingest or use as CBD products are not regulated and may result in a positive urinalysis test.”
New Haven officers are subject to be drug tested for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, steroids, opiates like morphine and heroin and PCP, according to the policy.
At least half of employees “performing safety-sensitive functions” are to be tested for controlled substance use annually, according to the document.
At least four such screenings are conducted each year; employees are required to report immediately for testing once selected unless there are extenuating circumstances.
According to the policy, the use of an illegal drug or controlled substance by a departmental employee, on or off duty, is cause for suspension, termination and/or criminal prosecution, although “officers who have been assigned undercover work and may have developed an addiction through such service” automatically receive a referral to a rehabilitation program for a first offense.
Any officer, after completing their initial probationary period with the department, can disclose a substance use issue to the chief of police and receive rehabilitative assistance.
“Access of this type shall be limited to two occasions. An employee referred to the program shall not be disciplined for the substance abuse disclosed,” the policy states. “However, failure to comply with the terms of the program shall subject the employee to discipline.”
The commission unanimously approved the new policy Tuesday.
Ben Lambert covers police and public safety for the Register. A graduate of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, he has worked on the behalf of the Valley Advocate, MassLive, The Register Citizen, and now, the New Haven Register. He spends far too much time thinking about the Boston Celtics.