By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
Two former employees say that illegal drug use was rife at the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police call center when they worked there recently.
"People would go smoke weed on their 10-minute break and come back smelling rank," claimed Cameron Duncan, a psychology major at Ball State University who quit his job at the call center in April, reports Seth Slabaugh at the Muncie Star Press.
Another former employee, Gareth Bowlin, said when he worked at the Fraternal Order of Police call center last year, "everybody did drugs in the parking lot, smoking weed and dealing pills; it was nothing but a big drug area. One girl they fired, she was so messed up on pills she fell asleep during a phone call."
The state FOP, which solicits donations from the public using the center's telemarketers, said it would be cost-prohibitive to put drug testing in place because the call center has a high turnover rate among its 60 or so telephone sales representatives.
That high turnover rate is actually quite understandable, as is the impulse to get messed up on something and to stay that way -- let's face it, telemarketing is a shit job, at least from the perspective of most of us.
The allegations of rampant drug use come as no surprise to the Indiana Troopers Association (ITA), which used the same telemarketing consultant, Atlanta-based John Keller, that the FOP uses.
"John Keller will tell you convicted felons are the very best telemarketers, a little abrasive and brazen," said Allen Stout, an attorney for the ITA. "He refers to them as having strong voices. He's not at all reluctant, in fact he seeks to hire them. You can pay them less because they have a hard time finding jobs."
According to Stout, when the ITA retained his law firm years ago, the firm put their own call center managers in place, based on reports of pervasive drug use in the centers like the ones coming from the FOP facility.
In 2009, ITA sued Keller, accusing him of fraud, unethical practices, theft, deception, racketeering and driving the Troopers Association into bankruptcy. Keller denied those allegations and countersued for defamation of character.
"John Keller put ITA into bankruptcy and put them out of business," Stout said. "They could not compete with his financial capabilities. If the FOP ever challenges him or the way he conducts business or the distribution of the money or the expenses, the FOP won't be able to compete with him, either."
Before former employee Duncan quit his job at the FOP call center, the FOP began cracking down on pot-smoking during breaks, firing several stoner employees, the BSU student said.
"I'd say 70 percent to 90 percent of the call center employees have been in jail," Duncan said. "If the public knew who they were talking to on the phone, they wouldn't donate. We can't tell them we are officers, but we sound authoritative. We can't tell the public what percentage of their donation goes to the FOP or they wouldn't donate. If they ask, we say the actual percent won't be known until the fundraiser is over. If they are persistent, we give them the number to the main office [in Indianapolis]."
One employee, Justin Speed, 21, continued to be employed at the police telemarketing center after his arrest during 2009 on charges including heroin possession.
But Speed (his real name, honest) was fired after being arrested again in Winchester, Indiana in March on charges of possession of a narcotic drug, possession of marijuana and "maintaining a common nuisance." During a search of the house Speed shared with others, police claimed they found a loaded shotgun, marijuana, a "large number" of morphine tablets and a bunch of Indiana Fraternal Order of Police decals.
The decals are given to FOP donors.
Duncan said the crackdown on drug use went beyond firing a few stoners.
"Now they can't go to their cars during break without a manager," Duncan said. "But they can do drugs before they come to work. If they did drug testing, a lot of people wouldn't come to work."
State FOP Treasurer Patrick Scher, a city police detective from Huntington, confirmed at least one firing but declined to say why the termination was made.
"After that happened, we instituted a policy if I am the manager and you are a worker and need something from your car ... I will say, 'OK, let's go to your car and get it,' " Scher said. "The reason we did that is because of the possibility of a person going to his car and either getting something illegal or doing something illegal."
The cost of preemployment drug screening "would be astronomical to us," Scher said. "With our employment there, we might hire seven or eight people a week because seven or eight quit. We have a big turnover in employees."
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.