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A question about cops and steroid use

A reader reports

Anabolic steroid use by law enforcement officers has been identified by numerous organizations and researchers as a factor in the increasing aggression and violence of police. Derived from the hormone testosterone, steroids have been a controlled substance since 1990, ostensibly available only by prescription.

Sought for their ability to increase muscle mass and enhance physique, hundreds of brand name steroids are available to those who know how to find them. Injected directly into the muscles, chronic misuse of steroids is associated with increased mood swings, depression, impaired judgement, nervousness, extreme irritability, delusions, hostility, and aggression. Steroid abuse among police officers creates what the Drug Enforcement Agency calls an “invincible mentality” when performing law enforcement duties.

In the last decade officers from Indiana, Connecticut, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Florida have been indicted and/or convicted on steroid possession.

Prompted by the public revelation of illicit steroid use by members of the police and fire departments in 2007, the Phoenix Police Department commenced random steroid testing of their department. The officer in charge of testing, Kim Humphrey, noted in Police Chief magazine that officers with rage or depression should not be carrying firearms.

As evidence mounted that steroid use was, in fact, a serious problem, the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 2008 issued a recommendation calling on local and state law enforcement agencies to create a policy prohibiting steroid use by the LEO community. The resolution was never passed and by 2014, the Phoenix Police Department had ceased steroid testing altogether.

Rigorous steroid testing has largely been abandoned for three reasons: cost, inability to determine use with testing, and organized resistance. The most common steroid testing method costs at least $200 to administer and involves expensive chemicals and equipment (as compared to urinalysis for narcotic use at roughly $20 per test). Most police department simply do not have the budgets for more than occasional, random tests.

The second factor is the growing ability of users to mask their steroid use with other substances, which can result in negative or inconclusive tests.

Other sources suggest that powerful police unions may protect officers from testing. And though the Fraternal Order of Police insists they do not sanction steroid use among police, they also support limiting the use of testing. Even when they are performed and the officer found to be “juicing,” there are no guarantees that convictions will not be overturned, fired officers reinstated, or legal consequences otherwise nullified.

Because there is no national standard for testing and no repository for the collection of data, no one knows for sure how many law enforcement officers may use steroids, but in his book Dopers in Uniform, John Hoberman, professor at The University of Texas-Austin, estimates that the number runs into the “tens of thousands.”

For more information, see Dopers in Uniform: The Hidden World of Police on Steroids by John Hoberman, University of Texas Press.

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