If you work at the Firestone plant in Des Moines you're subject to a random drug test. If it comes back positive you get fired. As a Firestone worker you're making tires not carrying a gun. As a Firestone worker you haven't any authority to arrest citizens. The only damage you can cause isn't worth talking about.

But it seems if you're a police officer in Pleasant Hill you aren't subject to any drug testing policy. As an officer you are issued a service revolver and all the other implements that can cause death and serious personal injury but still no one seems to be checking to see if you're high, stoned or buzzed.

The Des Moines Register reports that an officer in the Pleasant Hill PD was involved in a two-vehicle accident while inside the marked patrol vehicle were drugs. Perhaps the drugs were from a bust or an arrestee. I guess we'll have to see what the facts ultimately prove. In the meantime I'm guessing those Firestone workers who have been fired will be seething over whether this officer will lose his $52,000 a year job. I'm guessing the first thing the City of Pleasant Hill will require is a drug screen to see if the officer's blood and urine are clean. It's easy to jump to conclusions but first let's get the facts. The Iowa State Patrol is conducting their own investigation - let's see what they conclude before jumping to too many conclusions.

KCCI.com has a video from talking to the other driver whose car was struck by the officer. The report mentions methamphetamine and what is described as seizure like jerking. If this is true this is a done deal. The driver of the other car was Ron Vanderhart, a minister. This is great reporting on the part of Geoff Greenwood and Hannah Pickett and the rest of News Center 8 KKCI news team.

Early reports indicate the officer was airlifted to one of the hospitals in Des Moines. Under Iowa Workers' Compensation law if alcohol or drugs were involved in causing the accidental injuries the workers' benefits can be denied.

IF A COMMON CITIZEN, COULD THE OFFICER'S WORKERS' COMPENSATION CLAIM BE IN JEOPARDY?

Here is a discussion from File No. 1283455 an Arbitration Decision that awarded the injured worker nothing due to a finding under Iowa Code section 85.16, having to do with intoxication on the job.

In the case at bar, I found that Robert indeed suffered a work injury as alleged.

II. Iowa Code section 85.16 states as follows:

No compensation under this chapter shall be allowed for an injury caused: 

(2) By the employee's intoxication, which did not arise out of the in the course of employment but which was due to the effects of alcohol or another narcotic, depressant, stimulant, hallucinogenic, or hypnotic drug not prescribed by an authorized medical practitioner, if the intoxication was a substantial factor in causing the injury.

For the reasons explained in the Findings of Fact, I found that claimant's was intoxicated at the time of injury and that this intoxication was a cause of the injury (in addition to the slippery floor).  Even then, claimant could still recover worker's compensation benefits for an alcohol related injury upon a showing that his intoxication at the time of injury arose out of an in the course of his employment.  The most recent supreme court case on this subject was a case in which I awarded benefits to an exotic dancer in a strip club who became intoxicated while working at the club and was later injured in an auto accident after leaving the club.  Although I found that her injuries were due to her intoxication and consequent bad judgment to ride home with another intoxicated dancer, I found that her intoxication was work related in that she was required to "hussle" drinks from customers when not dancing.  My award of benefits was affirmed on appeal within the agency and by the courts.  In affirming the agency, the Iowa Supreme Court held that claimant's intoxication arose out of and in the course of her employment as a stripper when her drinking was required by her employer and that the employer benefited from this practice both financially by selling these drinks and providing good will to customers.  2800 Corp. v. Fernandez, 528 N.W.2d 124 (Iowa 1995).

In this case, I was unable to find that claimant was required in any way to drink before or during work.  I was unable to find that his employer benefited in any meaningful way from his drinking.  Therefore, I am unable to find the two rationales set forth in the Fernandez case. 

Similar to Fernandez I have represented an exotic dancer who was compensated under Iowa's workers' compensation act because drinking alcohol was a part and parcel of that business plan. The more they drank the easier their clothes came off and the more the patrons spent. I won't disclose how we investigated that case but clearly it's easy to prove what policy the strip club has for dancers to drink and dance. But let's get back to why forgiveness has nothing to do with a police officer that does anything other than follow the law.

SHOULD A DIRTY COP'S BEHAVIOR BE FORGIVEN?

Right now we have no idea what the truth of the matter is regarding the Pleasant Hill situation, nor do we really know if there was a drug on the police officer or in him. At this point we can conclude nothing. We have reports but not evidence nor a judicial decision.  The Trooper's report and the toxicology reports have to first be concluded. Now remember the pastor says he's already forgiven the officer and perhaps we should too, but the system can't just forgive and forget. The system can't just forgive and forget when an officer steps out of line with illicit drug usage.  The judges, lawyers and law enforcement don't have the option of applying forgiveness to a police officer who buys, sells or uses illicit narcotics. What is at stake is the integrity of the judicial system, but more so the criminal justice system. Consider for a minute those criminal prosecutions wherein the officer testified against Iowans. At the time of the court proceedings was he high, using, dirty and should he have been believed. Had the judge or jury known he was high would the defendants have been convicted?  Every case a dirty officer touches is tainted and is subject to being reviewed and overturned. The integrity of the judicial system is what is at stake; so professionally it won't matter whether we personally forgive illegal acts of officers because the system can't. The same goes for judges.

So let's get back to my original point: If you're receiving a pay check from the government you should be subject to random drug testing just like the guys at Firestone. If you're getting money from the public till you too should have to prove you're drug free. If you don't like it then don't take the public's money.

Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death
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