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Morse declares all police, fire personnel will be tested

Date: 6/6/2014

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE – In reaction to the revelation that a Holyoke police officer and a firefighter may have been using the opiate blocker suboxone, Mayor Alex Morse said he would order the drug testing of all personnel in the two departments.
Morse said at a June 2 press conference that he “will not tolerate drug use of any form.” The cost of the broad drug testing was estimated to be $10,000, and Morse said City Council President Kevin Jourdain “is on board with allocating the resources” for the tests.
Neither Morse nor Police Chief James Neiswanger was forthcoming with many details in the case as they said the investigation is ongoing. Both refused to give the names of the first responders in question.
Neiswanger only described the officer as a “young patrolman.”
The police chief said, “We don’t want to corrupt that investigation.”
No arrests have been made and no drugs have been seized.
On June 4 some media reports included names of two people identified as those personnel in question. Members of Morse’s staff – the mayor was en route to Washington D.C. to attend an event about helping homeless veterans – could not confirm or deny to Reminder Publications those were the people involved in the issue.
Morse said that regardless of the current contracts with police and fire personnel there is language that allows him to call for the drug tests. No timetable for the tests has been determined.
Neiswanger explained that he learned on May 28 the state police had been given a name of a Holyoke firefighter suspected of being a dealer, which then led to the name of a Holyoke police officer. Allegedly both men were using suboxone, a drug used in the treatment of opioid dependence. Neiswanger said that if a person was not addicted to an opioid such as heroin, one could experience a high from taking the drug.
 On May 29, Neiswanger called in the officer in question, spoke with him, put him on paid leave and seized his weapon. On May 30, the officer was asked to participate in a drug test. He refused.
The firefighter in question resigned on May 30. The officer resigned on June 2. Neiswanger said both men apparently were seeking suboxone from the same dealer.
Drugs unfortunately exist in Holyoke, but they can’t exist in the Police Department and they can’t exist in the Fire Department,” Neiswanger said.