NEW YORK (AP) – Major League Baseball launched a department of investigations Friday, a permanent branch of the commissioner’s office responsible for looking into drug use in the sport.

In his report last month on drug use in baseball, George Mitchell had recommended the formation of the unit. Adopting another of Mitchell’s recommendations, MLB is establishing a tip line for team employees to make the commissioner’s office aware of violations of drug, betting and other rules.

“The department of investigations will have critically important responsibilities in protecting the integrity of our sport,” commissioner Bud Selig said.

Dan Mullin, a former New York City Police Officer who had been in baseball’s senior director of security operations, was appointed vice president and head of the unit.

George Hanna, a former FBI employee currently in baseball’s security department, was appointed senior director of investigations.

MLB said the unit “will have broad authority to conduct investigations.” The limits of the unit were not immediately clear. Will it become a spy unit that places moles in clubhouses? Will it secretly tail players away from ballparks?

Bob DuPuy, baseball’s chief operating officer, said the department “will be given the freedom to do what is appropriate … in the context of acceptable and customary investigative and business practices.”

Mullin was not available for comment, baseball spokesman Rich Levin said.

It was unclear whether the activities the unit could participate in would have to be negotiated with the players’ association.

“We learned about this late last night. We had no role of any kind or sort in it,” union head Donald Fehr said. “After we digest it, to the extent we have questions and things we want to raise, I’m sure we’ll be doing that.”

Under labor law, terms and conditions of employment are subject to collective bargaining.

“We are free to investigate employee misconduct without bargaining,” said Rob Manfred, executive vice president of labor relations in the commissioner’s office.

Manfred said he notified the union this week that MLB intended to act unilaterally on the investigations unit, which will not deal with any on-field matters. The new department will be in contact with the 30 teams.

“I’m sure that there will be a regular liaison so that the department has whatever information it can garner,” he said.

MLB will require all team employees and the commissioner’s office to report any information on the possible use of performance-enhancing drugs to the head of the department of investigations. All team baseball operations employees will be required to sign an annual statement that they have no undisclosed knowledge of drug use, possession or distribution by players or other team employees.

This week, MLB adopted several other recommendations made by Mitchell, such as background checks and random drug tests for clubhouse employees; logging all packages sent to clubhouses; and permanent credentials for drug testers.

Selig has said some of the recommendations are subject to collective bargaining, such as moving responsibility for drug testing to an outside body. Lawyers for MLB and the union had a preliminary discussion this week.

Selig, Fehr and Mitchell are to testify Tuesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

AP-ES-01-11-08 2037EST


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