Who’s testing the testers?
When we require individuals to take drug and alcohol tests as part of their probation (an alternative to jail) or their participation in a recovery court, we require them to test honestly without cheating their tests. And we rely on the drug testing companies to test people honestly. Drug and alcohol testing is big business with each tester paying for the privilege.
So here’s even more proof that drug and alcohol testing agencies need their own accountability protocols. Kerry Morrish of the Advanced Safety Training and Drug Testing company in Cheboygan, Michigan, is accused of allowing a probationer to substitute urine. Apparently, a person who was testing for probation brought in their own urine. It goes against protocol because the tester can substitute their urine for someone else’s, which is what the tester was allegedly doing.
There are a lot of things that go into a urine test. The temperature of the urine, accurate reporting of identities of testers, the time of testing, visually checking for unusual characteristics and selection of substances tested are all important criteria in ensuring an accurate test. All of these things can be altered in a way that hides test results. A tester or a testing agency as a whole may have all kinds of motivations for falsifying tests on behalf of testers. I can think of a few possible motivators – financial kickbacks from the testers, personal friendships with testers that develop over time, playing judge with who deserves to be testing or who should be allowed to use what, wanting shiny performance metrics that hinge on success rates, to name a few.
It’s naive to think that testing agencies and those responsible for testing don’t need honesty checks. When Ryan Gubbins happened in Grand Traverse County, there was no word that court officials did a thing to put quality control checks into place for their bond, probation and drug court drug testing programs. I believe the issue is important enough that there should be state-level oversight, audits and secret checks for drug-testing agencies. But that doesn’t excuse local courts and law-enforcement authorities from policing their own.
Obstruction of justice is a pretty vague charge. It can mean everything and it can mean nothing. Perhaps state lawmakers need to create a felony specifically for purposefully altering a drug test for a legal matter. In any event, we’ll follow what happens with the charges against Morrish.