(MyFoxBoston.com) – The recent arrest of Steve Hogan, a Boston firefighter accused of buying drugs while on-duty, is raising questions about drug use within the Boston Fire Department.
Hogan has since resigned following the allegations he bought heroin while on duty; however, FOX 25's Jarrod Holbrook looked into the random drug testing program at the department and found that the number of firefighters testing positive for drugs and alcohol has continued to rise each year.
Boston Mayor Tom Menino has been a strong advocate of the random drug testing program following the deaths of two West Roxbury firefighters. The incident occurred in 2007. It was later discovered that at the time of their deaths Warren Payne had cocaine in his system and Paul Cahill was legally drunk.
FOX 25 obtained the results of random drug tests since the program began in September of 2010.
In the first cycle, nearly 1,500 firefighters were tested and six tested positive for drugs or alcohol. The next cycle, out of roughly 1,500 tests, eight firefighters tested positive. The most recent cycle revealed that 13 firefighters tested positive out of about 1,200 tests.
Boston's Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser said the number of firefighters testing positive is less than one percent of the staff.
"So I think it's a good news story that demonstrates to the public we don't have a large number of abuse of alcohol or drugs in this department," Fraser said.
"But when it comes to public safety, isn't one too many here?" FOX 25's Jarrod Holbrook asked.
"Well we don't want anybody abusing drugs or alcohol certainly…I'm concerned even one person being found with drugs under the department bothers me. We have a policy in place. They should take it very seriously," Fraser responded.
The random drug tests have also upset firefighters who claim they did not know they were being recorded during the testing.
Ryan Quintal, the President of Occupational Drug Testing LLC, supplies the mobile testing trucks and maintains that signs are posted both inside and outside of the truck warning participants of the cameras
Boston firefighters who test positive on a first time offense are suspended for 30 days without pay. They enter into an employee assistance program and agree to additional random testing for three years.
If they test positive a second time, they are asked to resign or are fired.
In the last two testing cycles, two firefighters resigned.
The Boston Fire Department is not saying who the firefighters are that tested positive, nor are they saying where the firefighters were stationed. The department told FOX 25 that it is not their policy to release that information.