The Scottsdale Police Department is changing, but not tightening, its hiring policies following a seven-week review of its pre-employment drug use standards.
The new procedure will require the police chief to consult with the city’s human relations director and legal counsel before waiving the department’s drug standards when hiring police employees.
Previously, the chief was authorized to waive the policy without consulting anyone.
Despite the extra step, the four-page review falls short of expectations, said City Councilman David Ortega, who requested the review Dec. 18.
"It’s incomplete," he said. "I have already asked for more complete information and I expect it and we’ll see what we get."
Police chief Alan Rodbell and human relations general manager Neal Shearer prepared the review following months of unrest within police ranks caused by disclosures that the highest-ranking civilian police employee was hired in 1998 despite admitting to using cocaine far in excess of the department’s standards.
The report is lacking in two areas, Ortega said.
• It does not address internal security measures that allowed a signed drug admission by police administrative services director Helen Gandara-Zavala to become public.
• It similarly does not address under what circumstances and how often the police department waives its requirements.
Ortega emphasized that his top priority is ensuring confidential personnel documents remain confidential.
In October, the Tribune published a copy of a handwritten statement in which Gandara-Zavala admitted to using cocaine about 20 times and marijuana about 10 times several years earlier.
Other documents paint a partial picture of the extent of past drug use among police employees.
An affidavit associated with a race discrimination lawsuit against the city states that at least 10 to 20 current police employees have drug histories that ordinarily would have kept them from being hired.
Police personnel specialist Michael Sperry says in the court document the drug policy was waived to make the hires from 1996 through mid-2003.
Rodbell and Shearer’s review details the police department’s drug-use standards. It also outlines the standards used by other Valley police departments and those used by Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, a statewide organization that certifies police officers.
For example, AZPOST and the Chandler, Mesa and Tempe police departments allow applicants to have used marijuana 20 times, including five times after age 21, and narcotics five times, including once after age 21.
Scottsdale limits marijuana to 10 uses and narcotics to one use, with no uses of either after age 21.
While Scottsdale has waived its own standards, it has never petitioned AZPOST to waive its standards, according to the review.
Chet Anderson, president of the Scottsdale chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the report appears to be a simple rehash of police drug standards.
"It doesn’t have what Councilman Ortega was looking for — the meat and potatoes of how many waivers and what kind of waivers," he said. "If he’s happy with that, I guess that’s certainly his prerogative."
Councilman Bob Littlefield, a critic of former police chief Doug Bartosh, said he expected the review to be light on details.
"I know why they didn’t put any numbers on it, because they didn’t want to open up the can of worms of who it was," he said.