City of Lincoln
2008 Media Releases
Mayor Chris Beutler announced today that the City and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 644 have reached an agreement on a program of drug and alcohol testing for Lincoln firefighters. The program is part of the tentative union contract to be introduced to the Lincoln City Council Monday, October 6.
Two Lincoln firefighters were arrested this summer on drug charges. They no longer work for Lincoln Fire and Rescue, and the State has suspended their paramedic and EMT certificates.
“Lincoln Fire and Rescue is not immune to our society’s challenges with drug and alcohol abuse,” Beutler said. “Like the rest of our population, some will find themselves battling the iron grasp of addiction. The difference is that emergency responders are entrusted with the health and well-being of our families. They make decisions every day that can impact a person’s life forever. We must demand a higher level of accountability. We have a responsibility to assure the public that this essential service is not compromised. Drug and alcohol testing provides that assurance.”
Beutler commended local IAFF President Dave Engler and union members for working toward the goal of “emergency response that is responsible, dependable and accountable.”
“A drug and alcohol testing policy also provides more protection for emergency responders,” said Fire Chief Niles Ford. “It is crucial that all those on the scene know they can depend on each other. This policy will add another level of professionalism to this outstanding department.”
Pre-employment testing will begin at the time the policy is adopted, and active employee testing will begin 60 days after that. The testing pool will include 271 current employees who work as firefighters, fire apparatus operators, captains, mechanics and fire inspectors. Half of the pool will be tested each year for drugs, and ten percent will be tested for alcohol. In addition to pre-employment and random testing, pool members also are subject to testing for follow-up purposes, in cases of reasonable suspicion or cause or when they return to duty after a positive test.
City Personnel Director Don Taute said the program will cost about $13,000 a year at current staffing levels.