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Boston Police Department Hiding Drug Test Results for Its Officers — May Have Used Tests To Discriminate Against Black Officers

Photo by Ken Teegardin.
Photo by Ken Teegardin.

The Boston Police Department spent over a year dodging public records requests from a pro bono legal services group seeking drug-test records, the group claims in court.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice wants records about the hair drug test used to screen officers, which has been challenged for being less reliable when testing African-American hair.

The committee is also seeking records that detail the racial makeup of BPD's recruiting class at its training academy, according to a lawsuit it filed last week against the City of Boston, the Boston Police Department (BPD) and Police Commissioner Williams Evans.

Specifically, the committee requested documentation of the number of officers tested for drug use, divided by race, and divided by the method of testing - either by hair, since 2007, or urinalysis, since 1998. Of those, the organization also requested the number of officers who tested positive for cocaine use.

The first records request was made on Dec. 5, 2014, and the second request was made Dec. 22, 2015. The committee's lawsuit alleges BPD has not responded to either request.

"The requests in question seek documents that are critical to ascertaining the racial impact of BPD employment practices," the Jan. 20 complaint states. "BPD's use of this test is highly controversial, particularly in light of questions regarding the test's reliability in testing African-American hair. Records concerning BPD's use of this test, and its impact on African-American officers, are critical public documents that should not be shielded from public view."

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