Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley Tuesday asked the city's commissions to come up with a policy for screening city employees suspected of drug use but said he has "serious concerns" about mandatory, random drug tests for all workers.
At the same time, a City Council committee began hearings on a proposal by Councilman Ernani Bernardi to require drug tests for all new city employees, and periodic tests for all 40,000 current employees.
'Time Has Come'
In a letter to each of the 25 city commissions, Bradley said, "The time has come for our community to face up to the epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse."
Currently, the Los Angeles Police Department is the only city department that requires drug tests but only of job applicants, said Raymond C. Allen, assistant general manager of the city Personnel Department.
Allen said that, under current policies, if a supervisor in any city department suspects an employee of drug use, he can demand a test. If the employee refuses, the only recourse left to the city is to charge the employee with insubordination, possibly resulting in minor punishment. It also prevents the city from seeking help for the employee.
Deputy City Atty. Les Brown said the drug-testing policy for current employees would be subject to the approval of the city employees' unions.
In his letter, Bradley urged the commissions to develop policies for testing employees "whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that an employee's behavior and performance are impaired due to substance abuse."
He said he has "serious concerns," however, about random, mandatory testing for all employees, or even those involved in jobs affecting public safety, such as operating heavy equipment. Bradley did not specify his concerns, but John Stodder, a Bradley spokesman, explained, "His feeling is that the preferable place to put the emphasis is helping to deal with someone who shows signs of a possible drug problem." Bradley asked the commissions to develop a policy "tailored to the specific needs of its department" and to return their recommendations to him within 60 days. He said the policies should "ensure public safety, while providing help to those employees who need it."