They need it to win fights with bad guys, to look menacing on the streets or to get that extra edge on the SWAT team.
To some police officers, the use of anabolic steroids is all about protecting themselves and the public.
But top law enforcement brass around the country are learning that the implications of a police force on steroids are far more frightening, Phoenix police Cmdr. Kim Humphrey said.
Humphrey talked about the trend yesterday (Tuesday, Nov. 11) at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in downtown San Diego.
He said steroid abuse has seeped into police agencies nationwide, but few departments test their officers for the drug.
Aggressive outbursts, excessive use of force, poor judgment and serious health problems have been associated with steroid abuse among officers. Not to mention the fact that the drug is illegal.
“It’s gone far beyond the sports field,” said Gary Green, a leading steroid researcher at UCLA’s Olympic testing laboratory and a consultant to Major League Baseball. “And it has big implications for law enforcement. This is someone who has a firearm, who is entrusted by the public. We certainly want them to be as healthy as they can be.”
The San Diego Police Department does not test for steroids in pre-employment screens or random drug tests, but officers could be tested if they are suspected of abusing steroids.
Bob Kanaski, San Diego assistant police chief, said steroid use was an issue in the department in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
“I haven’t seen anything of that nature since then,” he said. “Which is surprising, too, because we are very close to Mexico, which is probably one of the largest providers of steroids.
“I think we’ve done pretty good education on what steroids can do — what they can do to your body and to your future,” Kanaski said.
Phoenix became the first large police department to randomly test for steroids in 2006 after learning that a few of its officers were mixed up in federal drug investigations targeting unscrupulous physicians.
Some officers resigned when they learned they may be tested, while others were investigated for steroid-related incidents, including two domestic violence cases, Humphrey said.
Five officers and one firefighter recruit have tested positive for the drug.
Several other police agencies have since made headlines with steroid scandals — including Dallas, Boston and New York — and have added steroid screenings to their battery of other drug tests.
One of the big hurdles of steroid testing is the cost. An initial screening runs about $60, and an in-depth test at UCLA’s Olympic lab can skyrocket to $500.
Some officers try to justify the use of steroids by saying they suffer from low testosterone, a medical condition in some men. Others claim ignorance that they didn’t believe what they were taking was illegal.
“It’s going on everywhere,” said Humphrey, who has advised about a dozen police agencies on the matter. Testing officers for the drug, he said, is “an issue that needs to gain momentum.”
Copyright 2008 San Diego Union-Tribune