Beer Bust in a Firehouse: What is a "Reasonable Suspicion"?

Last September, Washington, DC, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Kenneth Ellerbe walked into a city firehouse and found several cans of beer in the refrigerator. He immediately placed all units in the station (engine, truck and ambulance) out...


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The chief’s actions provide an opportunity to review an important part of the law and they raise questions about the limits of drug and alcohol testing. As I have written previously (“Strong Testing Policy Needed to Address Drug & Alcohol Abuse,” Firehouse®, July 2004), a comprehensive testing program is critical. But it also must be done consistent with our basic laws in order to maintain its credibility. As we can see from this example, that is not always easy to do.

STEVE BLACKISTONE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a Maryland attorney who directs state and local liaison activities for an agency of the federal government. Prior to his current position, he served in a variety of posts on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives, working both on the personal staffs of members of Congress and on congressional committees. Blackistone also is an active volunteer EMT/firefighter with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad in Montgomery County, MD.