Seven former black Boston police officers who were fired after testing positive for cocaine in tests using hair samples have sued the police department alleging the screening technique is biased against African-Americans, the Boston Globe reports. “African-American hair is different from white hair because, among other things, it is coarser and thicker,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Rheba Rutkowski. “In fact, those properties make it far more likely to yield a false positive on a hair test than white hair.”
The test is an annual mandatory test given a month before each police officer’s birthday. The mandatory hair test replaced a urine test. The company that conducts the drug tests for the department, Psychemedics Corp., said it has had no complaints about them. The idea that ”drugs can get into your hair because of your race is a ridiculous concept,” said the firm’s Bill Thistle. The public and private sector have increasingly used hair samples for drug tests, but they have drawn criticism. Last year the Transportation Department and the Pentagon said they would not use hair, saliva, or sweat tests to test federal workers for drugs because they were concerned about fairness.