An investigation by the New Jersey's The Star Ledger recently revealed rampant steroid use among police officers there, prescribed by a unethical physician looking to make a quick buck. When that doctor died because of side effects from his own steroid use, people started to take notice.
But it's not just this doctor or just New Jersey. Steroid use is a big problem in law enforcement, according to the investigation.
"I really believe if it's not the most commonly abused drug in law
enforcement, it's damn close," said Larry Gaines,
chairman of the criminal justice department at California State
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Although there's no national research to determine just how many cops or
firefighters are abusing steroids, the stories aren't hard to find,
according to the researchers. Out of the many stories in the
Star-Ledger's investigation, listen to this one, about two cops who both
had filled prescriptions for testosterone and human growth hormone:
Detective Salvatore Capriglione, 44, and Patrolman Scot Sofield, 36, are
among five Edison officers accused of beating Lenus Germe, 44, as he
lay on the ground in May 2008. A video camera in a nearby patrol car
recorded the incident.
...the officers allegedly threw a
handcuffed Germe down a flight of stairs and beat him into
unconsciousness, leaving him with a concussion and internal injuries
that required hospital treatment, according to a lawsuit Germe filed
against the department.
Seeing that Chicago has a rate of police brutality claims about 40 percent above the national average, should we be taking a look at this too? Perhaps our police problems stem not just from a departmental attitude or racial tensions but from drug-induced machismo that leads to aggressive behavior.
In New Jersey at least, many of the officers who took steroids were victims themselves. Told that the drugs would make them feel young again, gain muscle or sexual prowess, they weren't told about the side effects--hardening of the arteries and cardiovascular strain, mood changes, high blood pressure, liver or kidney damage, pituitary gland damage. One officer on the drugs died as a result of seizure.
Most departments don't track steroid use among their officers. It's too expensive, say law enforcement agencies. But in a city that's shelling out millions each year, settling police abuse cases, maybe an ounce of prevention would be worth a pound of cure.
Not only would it save money, but, more importantly, it could save lives.
Photo credit: Tripp