Drug kit costing $40 deemed too expensive by police

Officers who stop erratic motorists they suspect of drug driving are forced to babysit them for up to three hours while they wait for an assessor armed with the test.

Victoria Police said “the objective” was for an assessor to be within 100km of any location in the state and admitted the test kits were not given to every officer due to their high cost.

Frontline officers have told the Herald Sun they have even let go suspicious drivers - who have passed a breath alcohol test - because they were the only unit stretched covering several suburbs and could not be off road waiting for an assessor to arrive from its road policing centre in Brunswick.

Another alleged a group of men was freed without a test, despite drug paraphernalia and needles being found in the boot of the car, because the officers would have incurred overtime by the time an assessor arrived.

The claims are vigorously denied by Victoria Police — told in 2012 to slash $60 million from its annual budget — which said it was not aware of any suspect driver not being tested.

However, Acting Superintendent Martin Boorman, of the Road Policing Operations and Investigation Division of Road Policing Command, said he did share the frustrations of his officers.

“I totally understand the frustrations of our members on the frontline dealing with the road trauma,” he said.

“If we could give them the best of everything, we would. But there are realities. We are trying to do the best we possibly can with what we’ve got available to us.

“I understand my colleagues’ frustrations at not being able to do everything they want, when they want to do it. But there’s practicalities involved. We are getting there, but it’s going to take some time.”

Last year almost 42,000 drug tests were conducted, compared with almost four million alcohol tests.

About 2500 motorists were charged with drug driving in 2013. The latest statistics show nearly 500 drivers who crashed and were taken to hospital for their injuries were found to have illicit drugs in their system.

The $40 drug testing kit tests a driver’s saliva for cannabis, methamphetamines and MDMA or ecstasy.

Officers are now routinely trained in administering the tests as they graduate through the academy, however, the tests are given only to the traffic management unit at Brunswick, assessors dotted across the state, booze buses and most units in state highway patrol.

Acting superintendent Boorman conceded waiting for an assessor with the test was not ideal but said the tests had been used only since 2004 and were expensive.

“It’s a disincentive — no one wants to be waiting, waiting, waiting,” he said.

“While we would all like to be front of the pack, top of the game, all the time, there’s a process we have to go through to get to where we want to.

“They are expensive. They’re a diagnostic kit. A lot of research and development has gone into them and they’re not cheap. The market dictates the price and they’re not cheap devices.”

Original Article https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/law-order/drug-kit-costing-40-deemed-too-expensive-by-police/news-story/333e35449c0457224dad846fc19d0751

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