Cops on ‘Roids – How Departments and the Public Deal with Police Steroid Use

September 27, 2012

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by Jeff Clemetson, Editor

A drug smuggling bust along the Canadian/U.S. border back in April of this year has brought to the forefront a fact that most readers of this publication already know – that cops use steroids. Not only that, but a lot of cops use a lot of steroids.

The smuggling case involves the Canadian police force in Niagara, which came under scrutiny after Niagara Constable Geoff Purdie was arrested in Buffalo, NY by US Homeland Security for conspiracy to export and distribute more than a half a million dollars worth of anabolic steroids and related drugs. Purdie’s bust prompted police chief Jeff McGuire to open an internal investigation into steroid use by Niagara’s police department. The investigation turned up years of signs of aggressive steroid use, abuse and trafficking by Niagara police officers and a pervasive attitude of turning a blind eye by previous police administrations.

picture of police car

use of steroids up in police forces

Steroid use among police officers is nothing new. In 1989, television news program 60 Minutes produced a report detailing the widespread use of steroids by police officers and in 1991 the FBI produced a report that predicted that illegal steroid use by police officers would lead to corruption and involvement with organized crime in departments.

One such case of corruption happened recently in New Jersey. Over 248 police officers and firefighters from 53 agencies around the Jersey City area were discovered to be involved in a steroid prescription scheme with a local physician named Dr. Joseph Colao. Dr. Colao wrote prescriptions to police and firefighters, most of whom were under the age of 40, for non-existant illnesses such as low testosterone that allowed them to take testosterone-based drugs as well as HGH and other more advanced anabolic steroids. Because the police and firefighters used their publicly paid medical insurance, by some estimates the taxpayers of New Jersey were charged into the millions of dollars for bulking up their public servants.

“If it’s shown that these law enforcement officers are getting steroids through illegal manners, and specifically through false prescriptions, that’s a violation of the law,” said New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow in an interview with NJ.com. “It’s a fraud on the system, and its something that should be stopped.”

Stopping steroid use in police departments is easier said than done. An article published in October in The Police Chief, written by a collaboration of Pheonix, AZ police officials and several doctors, acknowledged the difficulties departments have in monitoring steroid use, specifically citing the  high cost of testing for a wide range of anabolic substances and the legal parameters of dealing with officers who have prescriptions from doctors – whether the doctor is properly prescribing the drugs or merely using his/her office to push expensive steroid compounds for profit.

Besides discussing the cost and difficulties of testing, the article in The Police Chief also went into detail on why police departments need to monitor their officers’ use of steroids – lawsuits brought to departments for using excessive force. The article opens with a “what if” scenario meant to enlighten police officials as to who might be using steroids in their departments and how to recognize them.

“Another officer, involved in several shootings and use-of-force incidents, garners significant attention within his agency and the media. Investigations reveal that the unrelated incidents were questionable but lawful and, according to the officer, justified based on perceived threats. The agency’s use-of-force review reluctantly finds the officer within policy but awaits the next incident. How many police leaders would recognize that this officer could have a problem similar to the one in the first example? If the officer’s appearance indicated he was exceptionally muscular, would they consider the possible abuse of anabolic steroids? What would prompt them to believe that excessive use of force could be associated with “’roid rage,” a hyperaggressive, violent state of mind supposedly brought on by steroid use? When and how would they confirm that their suspicions are true? What if a defense or civil attorney proposed that an officer was a steroid abuser based on the officer’s appearance and witnessed behaviors?”

The caution that departments are suddenly taking to their officers’ use of steroids is not without cause. Remember Constable Purdie of the Niagara Police Department? After his arrest by Homeland Security, previous incidents of his aggressive use of force began to make the news. In one incident, an off-duty Pudie beat a 54-year-old man outside a restaurant. In another, Purdie and his partner severely beat a man in front of his own home. Both cases were reported by the victims as police brutality but the charges were dismissed by the police departments. However, in light of Purdie’s and the other officers’ involvement in the steroid smuggling ring, new civil lawsuits may be brought up that contend the officers were abusing steroids, invloved in criminal racketeering and likely lied about their version of the events surrounding the brutality charges.

In the Jersey City police department, several officers taking steroids prescribed by Dr. Colao have already been charged with violence, fired from their jobs or sued for excessive force. Officer Brian McGovern was allegedly taking Stanozolol, testosterone, HGH and Nandrolone when he was suspended for assaulting a man during a fight while he was off-duty. Passaic County Sheriff’s Detective, Dr. Colao patient and competitive bodybuilder Rafael Galan was criminally charged with official misconduct for allegedly tipping off a drug dealer to an investigation, although the charges were later dropped. Officers Victor Vargas and Michael Stise are defending their actions in a civil lawsuit brought on the Jersey City police department after the two men allegedly beat a man in his own home who had called the police to report a possible break in.

The suit involving Vargas and Stise is one of at least five that involve officers who had prescriptions from Dr. Colao. More are expected if the Jersey City department looses in court.

It is unclear to science whether or not steroids play a significant role in acts of violence. The term “roid rage” is often thrown around to explain acts of aggression by steroid users. Most people who use steroids do not loose control of their temper and those that do are probably the type of person who is prone to a bad temper in the first place, regardless of steroid use. But for police officers who seek to gain that physical edge because of the demands of their difficult job, “roid rage” will be the charge leveled against them by lawyers during lawsuits and by superiors who question their use of force during arrests. And due to a more enlightened public armed with video cameras, excessive force by police officers will more and more be assumed to be the result of steroid abuse.

Like the article in The Police Chief states, comprehensive testing for most police departments is too expensive for today’s cash-strapped cities. But if more incidents of police officers involved with illegal steroids make the news, cops will join professional athletes under the watchful eyes of urine monitoring.