New drug-testing policy set for volunteers in Okla. county

The new policy outlines circumstances that require drug and alcohol testing for volunteer firefighters and other emergency responders


James Beaty
McAlester News-Capital, Okla.

PITTSBURG COUNTY, Okla. — Pittsburg County commissioners have adopted new drug and alcohol testing guidelines for county volunteers in safety-sensitive positions.

The policy includes volunteer Pittsburg County reserve deputies, all volunteer firefighters with volunteer fire departments in the county and volunteers with the Pittsburg County Office of Emergency Management, including storm spotters.

Commissioners unanimously passed the measure during their Monday meeting at the Pittsburg County Courthouse. It's set to go into effect on Feb. 15, 2020.

District 2 Commissioner Kevin Smith said the new policy came about based on a recommendation from a safety officer with the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, known as ACCO.

Commissioners' Clerk Sandra Crenshaw said a previous volunteer drug-testing policy was in place, but this resolution's changes were needed.

"You had to administer tests, but to everybody at the same time," said Crenshaw, who is the designated employee representative for the county.

"They always knew when it was coming," she said.

With the new policy, volunteers will have the pre-employment initial test required to come on board, but will not have to be re-tested unless they fall into one of the following areas: Reasonable suspicion, post-accident or return to duty.

Like paid county employees, volunteers in safety-sensitive positions will not be allowed to use drugs while on duty or on county property, including medical marijuana. Safety-sensitive positions include areas such as law enforcement, emergency responders and those who have a commercial drivers license or commercial motor vehicle license.

Joining Smith in voting unanimously for the resolution were District 1 Commissioner/ Commission chairman Charlie Rogers and District 3 Commissioner Ross Selman.

It includes requirements and testing guidelines.

"It's been determined that guidelines for Pittsburg County volunteers should deviate from the guidelines for county employees," the resolution states.

"It's been decided to draft a drug and alcohol testing policy which will apply only to Pittsburg County volunteers, including, but not limited to, volunteer firefighters, reserve deputy sheriffs and any other volunteers that may fall under the jurisdiction of Pittsburg County," the resolution continues.

Reserve deputy is the term for unpaid volunteers who assist the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Department. Around 15 reserve deputies currently assist the sheriff's office, said Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris.

They are not currently being drug-tested before becoming a reserve deputy, said Morris.

"We do not have to drug-test deputies," Morris said.

That's set to change with the new policy. When the new resolution goes into effect Feb. 15, any new reserve deputies will have to be drug-tested before becoming part of the Sheriff's Office.

"I think it's a good deal," Morris said.

Included in the resolution are more details regarding when volunteer testing is required:

  • Applicant testing — "A positive test or refusal to undergo testing may result in a refusal to hire," the policy states.
  • For-cause testing: "Any time the county reasonably believes an individual is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the county may require a drug or alcohol test. Circumstances that would cause the county to require a drug or alcohol test include:
    • Drugs or alcohol on or about the individual's person or an individual's vicinity;
    • Conduct on the individual's part that suggests impairment or influence of drugs or alcohol;
    • A report of drug or alcohol use while on duty;
    • Information that an individual has tampered with drug or alcohol use at any time, or
    • Negative performance patterns.
  • Post-accident testing — "If a volunteer's conduct could have contributed to an accident while on-duty which results in injury to the employee or another person or damage to property or equipment, the employee may be required to undergo drug and/or alcohol testing. If the county conducts a post-accident test, the county will require employees whose conduct could have contributed to the accident to undergo a drug or alcohol test, whether or not they reported an injury.
  • Return from leave — A volunteer who has been on leave will have to take another drug and/or alcohol test before returning to duty.

Smith said it will take a department head or chief to require a drug test in most instances, He said they will be trained on what to look for if drug or alcohol use by a volunteer in a safety sensitive position is suspected of violating the policy.

Volunteers and applicants who test positive for marijuana or its components under the new policy will be required to establish they hold a valid Oklahoma medical marijuana license, the policy states.

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©2020 the McAlester News-Capital (McAlester, Okla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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