“This is a turning point for the New Britain Fire Department,” New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said.
Nearly six months after an off-duty New Britain firefighter died from a suspected overdose, firefighters within the department will now be required to undergo random drug testing.
“It’s going to allow a third of the department to be randomly drug tested each year, so roughly about 40 individuals, and their name gets put back into a hat and if they get picked again in a year, they might get picked,” Stewart said.
Stewart said the testing comes after an agreement between the city and its fire union. An internal investigation led to the firing of a lieutenant and the suspension of seven firefighters who Stewart said were a part of a circle of friends using illegal drugs.
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Firefighters will also now learn how to properly report suspected drug use within the department.
“It also comes with reasonable suspicion training, so every single employee of the New Britain Fire Department is now going to be trained to be able to see the signs of drug use and abuse and how to deal with confronting the individual,” Stewart said.
While police did not find enough evidence to criminally charge the lieutenant accused of selling the drugs, Stewart said his alleged actions are inexcusable.
“I don’t see him getting his job back in any way shape or form. If an arbitration panel votes to grant this, that’s going to be case law, that is not going be good for anybody across the state and across this country,” Stewart said.
Stewart said part of the policy includes assistance programs to help firefighters better cope with stress instead of turning to substance abuse.
“We all have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. When you’re the first responder and you’re the public officials, you are held to a higher standard,” Stewart said.
NBC Connecticut tried reaching out to multiple fire administrators and the union but have yet to hear back.