Detection of Drugs in Work Areas of Police Stations and the Implications for Workplace Drug Testing

Gregory Doran, Julia Howitt, Ralph Deans, Carlo De Filippis , Chris Kostakis

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Drug use is commonplace in the broader community and leads to accumulation of drugs on public surfaces. Daily police operations include interception and seizure of licit and illicit drugs, creating the potential for exposure of police officers. Long term storage of drug exhibits may increase the risk of exposure and the likelihood of drug residues accumulating in police facilities. While monitoring of drug residues has been carried out in external environments such as clandestine drug laboratories and cannabis growing houses, no work has been undertaken to identify residues in police stations.
We analysed work surfaces in 10 city and country police stations and one large scale drug storage facility in New South Wales, Australia for 22 drugs and 2 metabolites. These results were compared to a series of public sites.
Swabs were collected from surfaces including counters, computers, barcode readers, drug storage safes and handles. Hair and urine samples were collected from volunteer police officers working in various roles in police facilities. Swabs and hair were extracted, concentrated and analysed by LC-MS/MS for 24 drugs and metabolites. A testing cup was used to screen urine samples for amphetamine, methamphetamine, cocaine, opiates and THC, with a subset analysed by GC-MS by an external laboratory.
Low concentrations (0.04-22.4 ng) of amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA, oxycodone and cocaine were detected on counters and computers in public areas at background sampling sites. Methamphetamine showed the highest concentrations of all drugs, at 23 ng per swab. In contrast, 14 drugs and one metabolite/by-product were detected in police stations. The majority of swabs taken in charge (arrest), drug storage and main reception areas tested positive for drugs at police stations. The majority of swabs collected from work surfaces and evidence balances were positive for at least one drug, but most results were less than 40 ng per swab for a 15 cm diameter sampling ring. The highest concentrations of drugs on surfaces were up to 325,000 ng and were detected inside drug safes, on evidence bags and on balances used for weighing seized drugs. These areas correspond to the highest drug traffic areas in police stations. Higher concentrations were also detected on some surfaces in the large drug storage facility. Urine samples collected from officers working in these environments tested negative for the drugs screened. Two hair samples collected tested positive for very low concentrations of cocaine.
While the number of drug analytes detected on work surfaces in police stations correlated with the types of drugs seized, the concentrations of drugs detected on work surfaces in city and country police stations did not differ appreciably, and did not correlate with the number of drug exhibits seized. More than 75% of swabs had drug concentrations below 40 ng of a given drug per swab, which is similar to concentrations detected in public facilities. These results suggest that even though police stations work surfaces are routinely exposed to drug residues, the exposure risk in these areas of police stations are on par with exposure in public areas. The highest surface drug concentrations tend to be focussed in high risk areas of police stations, reducing exposure risk to police officers, and allowing cleaning processes to be focused. Both hair samples positive for cocaine were collected from police officers in high risk job roles, but since no benzoylecgonine was detected in either sample and the cocaine concentrations were so low, external contamination of hair was considered a likely cause for the low-level positive cocaine results. These conclusion is also supported by negative urine tests for both officers, as well as all police officers tested during the study.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event55th Joint Meeting of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) and The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT): 2017 SOFT-TIAFT Joint Annual Meeting - Boca Raton Resort & Club (Waldorf Astoria), Boca Raton, United States
Duration: 06 Jan 201812 Jan 2018 (Conference website) (Link to published abstracts)


Conference55th Joint Meeting of the Society of Forensic Toxicologists (SOFT) and The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists (TIAFT)
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBoca Raton
OtherTIAFT/SOFT 2017, the 55th Annual Meeting of the International Association of Forensic Toxicologists, took place 6 – 12 January 2018 in Boca Raton, FL, USA. Rescheduled because of Hurricane Irma!!!!!!
Internet address


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