EDITORIAL – Kudos to BDF on drug policy
We all know that Barbados has a problem with illegal drug usage.
This is borne out by studies and surveys through the years by professionals in that field. If there are any doubts about the veracity of their research, the constant flow of young men, in particular, through our courtson drug-related charges is empirical evidence of what is happening.
For all the talk over the years though, there have been few decisive measures to get at the root of the problem. We say this because despite the establishment of the National Council on Substance Abuse and other public and private sector initiatives, no targeted effort has been instituted to deal with the drug situation here.
Nearly a decade after a much publicized national consultation, the Barbados National Anti-drug Plan is still languishing in a file as a draft document.
Because of the inaction on this plan, Barbados today is one of the few remaining Organization of American States’ members that do not have such a plan in place.
That is why we commend the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) on its decisive action on a drug-testing policy. In the last two years the policy was in effect, 25 soldiers have been dismissed from the BDF for failing drug tests and six would-be soldiers also ran afoul of the measure during the process for recruitment.
BDF Chief of Staff Colonel Alvin Quintyne explained that the policy was introduced because he needed to be “comfortable” that soldiers could carry out their duties when they were deployed in support of the police or any other agency in any exercise where arms and ammunition had to be employed.
Quintyne said that all soldiers, himself included, were subjected to the drug test and where an individual had tested positive for drugs, due process was followed, with the individual being given the right to have their B sample tested. Following investigations, once drugs had been found in their system they would be dismissed from the BDF.
We feel in the same manner that soldiers are accepting drug tests as a condition of their employment, consideration should be given to introducing this, with trade union agreement, to other uniformed organizations that also play a sensitive role.
We speak of the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Barbados Fire Service, paramedics and other emergency ambulance personnel and bus drivers, both at the Transport Board and in the private sector, as they have responsibility for the safety of large numbers of people.
In the case of the police in particular, who are on the frontline of law enforcement against the use and distribution of illegal drugs, it is vital that they have credibility; an effective drug policy would show there are no double standards.
Of course, apart from the police, any drug-testing policy should not be just punitive. We feel it should provide for support and treatment for employees who test positive, but also include sanctions and termination for severe or repeat offenders.
There’s no question that the best way to lead is by example. An initial drug-testing policy among these groups would show that this country is committed to getting to the root of this destructive problem.