STEROIDS AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
“Although physical fitness is an essential part of policing, as described in the previous article, some officers go too far to ensure their strength—endangering not only themselves but also the public they are sworn to defend.” – policechiefmagazine.org
TO INJECT AND SERVE
By Elizabeth CortlandPolice homicides have risen to a remarkable degree the past several years. Many attribute this to cultural deficiencies, racism and over-zealous police training to compensate for these dangerous times. The police, in light of 9/11 and the atrocious economic crash have become militarized to prepare for a more threatening world. The pressures put on society economically and socially have been testing the resolve of a vast majority of citizens and police officers alike. But in the debates concerning excessive use of police force, why aren’t steroids ever mentioned in that discussion?
Most cops work hard to stay in shape. They need to be in top physical and mental condition to maintain order in a more hazardous world and as a result, there have been many features produced about the subject of steroids abuse in law enforcement since 1989 (CBS, 6o Minutes, “Beefing Up the Force”). In a 2004 article published in menshealth.com, a 26 year old police officer claimed at that time approximately 20-25% of the cops he knew were actively using anabolic steroids. Many cops feel more threatened today. Like anyone put in harm’s way, they want to make it home in one piece after their shift or in some cases, tour of duty ends. To keep their edge, some look to steroids as the answer.
To the point that it has become a recognizable threat to the integrity of law enforcement throughout the country, the U.S. Department of Justice/Drug Enforcement Administration published in 2004 a pamphlet entitled, Steroid Abuse by Law Enforcement Personnel. Could this be any indication that metropolitan law enforcement agencies across the country may share similar internal problems with steroid abuse among their ranks?
ACCORDING TO THE DEA PUBLICATION POSSIBLE PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTURBANCES INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
• Mood swings (including manic-like symptoms leading to violence) • Impaired judgment (stemming from feelings of invincibility) • Depression • Nervousness • Extreme irritability • Delusions • Hostility and aggression
Police Officers have the most stringent measures for qualification, beyond the other government agencies. Drug testing of course is part of the regimen. Until recently anabolic steroids were not easily detectible with normal drug screening, for example like most narcotics and weed. The test is costly and when multiplied by the number of police officers nationwide the public expense would put further pressure on an already strained system.
Favorable arguments have been made for steroid use in justifying their performance enhancing properties in regards to the demands placed on law enforcement personnel. Studies have shown that the majority of steroid users are not specifically athletes, but include police officers, firefighters and other successful professionals who are purely concerned with maintaining peak mental proficiency and physical conditioning. Some police officers and firefighters pump a lot of iron and steroids are a popular enhancer that gives quick results.
One of the largest investigations on record occurred in New Jersey when 248 police officers and firefighters from 53 different agencies were obtaining illegal prescriptions from a local doctor. As a result of the doctor’s death it led to an investigation. The investigation by The (New Jersey) Star-Ledger revealed that many of the officers and firefighters had faced charges and lawsuits in the past for excessive use of force and civil rights violations.
Could the escalation in the use of steroids among police officers, athletes and civilians have any relationship to the exponential rise in urban violence and gun deaths over the past ten years? As of 2008 the New York City P.D. announced that they were adding steroids to the list of substances to be tested for, as are many other departments across the U.S. In contrast there are still many who currently do not unless there is some physical indication of a problem.
”FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin No. 60 entitled “Abuse of Anabolic Steroids.” The authors stated: “Anabolic steroid abuse by police officers is a serious problem that merits greater awareness by departments across the country.”
At a conference for the world of law enforcement professionals held in 2008, initiatives were enacted to increase oversight and countermeasures to combat anabolic steroid abuse in both Canada and the U.S., as American cops are not alone in dealing with this issue. Since then very little progress has been made, as some politicians and states would rather spend their resources drug testing those who are receiving public assistance instead.
In the popular discourse about recent acceleration of gun violence and police shootings, rarely is the subject of steroid use ever mentioned, if at all unless you search the web. The majority of the prime time coverage is focused on the divisiveness and retaliation caused by the tragic event, rather than in channeling the public’s awareness to the possible causes of the inherent social dysfunctions that fueled the violence to begin with.
Evidence is always forthcoming identifying anti-depressants and other prescription drugs as a key element in the dissociative behavior leading to many of America’s school shootings and other similar acts of violence. There is an inherent ease of access to steroids and other narcotics in today’s society. It would not be inconceivable to consider how these medications and enhancers would wind up in the hands of those entrusted with the authority to protect and serve and how abusing such enhancers could lead to an escalation of miscommunication or force when dealing with intense social situations day after day. A police officer’s primary duty is to deescalate tension instead of antagonizing it.
There is an effect to world in every action we commit. Politics and conflicts of interest need to be overcome in order to work through some of America’s most challenging social and economic dilemmas. It would serve the world well to take a wider view before we allow sensationalism caused by the heat of the moment to cloud our critical thinking. When the legitimacy of authority and the integrity of law enforcement become questionable to any society, then respect for their authority is bound to become less prevalent and the recognition that good cops deserve in service to their communities will always get lost in the sauce.
POLICE DEPARTMENTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE USE AND ILLICIT TRAFFICKING OF ANABOLIC STEROIDS