Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Drug Testing of Police Command

Much has been made of Dirección de Investigación y Evaluación de la Carrera Policial (DIECP) not performing the confidence tests on the police high command in Honduras.

It is in part why Eduardo Villanueva has lost his job as director of DIECP. 

Much is now being made of the confidence tests for the police high command having finally been scheduled. 

But before everyone goes patting Porfirio Lobo Sosa on the back, consider these facts.

The drug test portion of the confidence tests is a standard test of urine for the metabolites of common drugs.  This is the same drug test that some US companies apply to potential employees and that the US military applies to recruits.  It does not directly test for the presence of the drug, but rather tests for metabolites, compounds produced by the body when it breaks down the drug, in the urine.  There are standards for how much metabolite must be present in order to constitute a positive test, and this number is set by the Honduran government.   The reason there's a threshold set is that some of the metabolites can occur in urine due to normal biological processes, but always at less than the threshold value.

There is a wide body of literature on the Internet about how long the metabolites can be detected in a urine test.  Answers abound to questions posed by anxious potential employees and military recruits. Marijuana metabolites last a long time in the body because they are stored in lipids (fats). If one is a regular user, a urine test can be positive for up to 100 days, though lab tests show that an individual regular user may test drug free in as few as 7 days.  PCP, like marijuana, is stored in fats in the body, and therefore can take 7 to 28 days to clear the body of a regular user.  Most drugs, however, fall below the testing threshold in 1-7 days.  This means drug tests are best done with no forewarning, unannounced, not scheduled.

Not for the police high command in Honduras, apparently, who have been given more than a week's notice.

The tests of the police high command are scheduled for May 6 -10.  That's 9 to 12 days after the schedule for the tests was publicly announced.  In the testing done so far on lower ranking police, 7% of those tested have been positive for drug use. The police high command has been given enough time to clear the traces of all but chronic drug use.

The only police high command likely to be caught by the pre-announced drug test are those who cannot quit for a few days. Which might help identify some obvious candidates for dismissal, but falls far short of any claim of purifying the police force.

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