Should drug testing for first responders be considered?

Dec. 8, 2017 | G. Michael Dobbs

The case in Chicopee concerning a firefighter being arrested at the Public Safety Complex for multiple robbery cases and for having drugs and a syringe on him at work is both disturbing and sad.

Officer Michael Wilk, the department’s public information officer, released the following information last week: “On Nov. 28th, at 10:29 p.m., our detectives went to the Chicopee Fire Department, located at 80 Church St, to speak to a party of interest in multiple armed robberies in our city. Our detectives, who have been investigating all of these cases, were able to, through good, hard, dedicated police work, develop a person of interest, and realized he was employed as a firefighter at the Chicopee Fire Department. When our detectives went to the dispatch area, they discovered this person of interest working at the dispatch center. While speaking to this individual, one of our detective sergeants observed a bundle of heroin on the floor directly behind his chair. He was asked to come to our detective bureau and speak with our investigators. While walking to our department, the party notified our officers he was in possession of a hypodermic needle. Upon checking the subject, several bags of heroin and cocaine were located on his person. After our detectives interviewed the party, and based on all evidence and statements, he was placed under arrest. It was determined that this suspect was responsible for five armed robberies in our city.”

Erick Henry was charged with five counts of Armed & Masked Robbery, Possession of a Class A Drug (Heroin) and Possession of a Class B Drug (Cocaine).

I’m sure as the case comes to court, we will learn more about Henry and how a first responder became addicted. This story speaks to the widespread nature of the heroin epidemic and that it reaches into all parts of society.

It also brings up a topic that will anger some people, which is not my intent: drug-testing. Should people such as first responders, under a lot of job pressure, be tested to ensure they don’t have a problem?

I don’t write this to imply that there is any sort of widespread problem among first responders. My intention is to suggest this would be a way to identify and treat those who have a problem.

I’d be willing to bet this incident in Chicopee is an extremely isolated one, but the mayor and the fire and police chiefs need to understand how this looks to residents and perhaps proactive measures should be considered to help any other first responder with a hidden problem.

Show me the stats

The saga of the proposed Adam and Eve “sex positive” shop continues in East Longmeadow and allow me to reproduce a quote from Payton North’s most recent story: “Resident Mark Suess stated he worked in corrections for 24 years and has since retired, though he noted that an adult store entering town would attract an undesirable crowd, insinuating that sex offenders would be drawn to East Longmeadow.

“‘This is a case where if you build it, they will come, these sex offenders, they will come. I’m not saying that everyone that goes in these stores are going to be a sex offender, but if we’re the only ones around that has these types of stores, they will come. We don’t want to draw them to our community,’” Suess said.

So Bookends has been in Enfield, CT, for decades right over the Longmeadow line. Can anyone tell me what kind of problems it has caused for either Enfield or Longmeadow? Has there been an increase in crime?

Is anyone suggesting putting it in a residential area in East Longmeadow? Next to a school? Next to a church? No.

I live in Springfield and if the owner of this business wanted to build a store there, pay taxes and hire people I’d welcome it. We need all the legit businesses we can get.

I’m sure what the owner has seen is that East Longmeadow has the demographics his business requires and that’s why he wants to locate one here.

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