ByÂ Jo Ciavaglia
He was an angry, suicidal police officer with a body built like a Sherman tank who was armed with more firepower than any off-duty law enforcement officer could possibly need and had no reservations about using it, police and court documents say.
But those details about Richard Klementovich,Â the man charged with firing more than 117 bullets at police during a 10-hour standoff Sunday in Doylestown Township, could be signs of something else, according to a University of Texas professor: steroid abuse.
While many people are familiar with steroid abuse among athletes, few are aware of its prevalence within the law enforcement community, particularly in more urban areas, said John Hoberman, who has extensively studied steroid use and trends among law enforcement.
“There is a great deal of steroid use by police officers in the U.S. It's probably in the tens of thousands,” he said. “It's not taken as seriously as a threat as other so-called drugs of abuse.”
Hoberman isn't alone in his claims, either.
An article in a FBI Law Enforcement bulletin called anabolic steroid abuse by police officers a “serious problem” that merited greater awareness by departments nationwide — and that was in 1991. But today only a handful of U.S. police departments include steroids in the routine random drug testing for police officers.
The New Jersey Office of Attorney General last year introduced a series of reforms designed to eliminate the abuse of anabolic steroids and human growth hormones among New Jersey's law enforcement ranks. The measures included clearing the way for police departments to conduct random steroid tests of officers and increase safeguards in taxpayer-funded prescription drug plans.
The law enforcement magazine “The Police Chief” addressed the issue in a 2008 article that suggested that some steroids may appeal to police officers who want a “tactical edge” or “intimidating appearance.”
The article also touched on concerns beyond the normal health worries involving inappropriate steroid use among those in the law enforcement profession.
“Officers carry weapons, are authorized to use lethal force, and are often involved in physically controlling or restraining people,” the article said. “If the stories of 'roid rage are true, how often are the officers who use anabolic steroids involved in unnecessary use-of-force incidents that could become a major liability for their agencies?”
Anabolic steroids are drugs manufactured to act like male sex hormones that can be taken orally, injected or applied in a skin patch or cream. Doctors most often prescribe anabolic steroids to treat conditions that occur when males produce abnormally low amounts of testosterone, which can result in delayed puberty, osteoporosis and impotence. They are also prescribed to patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass.
But when combined with a high-protein diet and vigorous weightlifting, the anabolic qualities of the drugs build muscle tissue and bone and the androgenic qualities are known for increasing masculine qualities such as sex drive and hair growth.
Doses of anabolic steroids that exceed the normal production rate of testosterone can amplify this effect, resulting in super normal gains in lean muscle mass and strength, according to doctors.
Excessive use of steroids can also lead to nasty side effects, including the infamous ‘roid rage, the display of irrational behavior, such as anger, aggression, recklessness, depression and suicidal thoughts. Generally, the higher the dose of steroids, the more likely this behavior occurs, experts say.
Dr. Adam Chrusch, a sports medicine doctor affiliated with Abington Memorial Hospital, has healthy patients who improperly use steroids that they buy off the Internet, particularly middle-age men who frequent health clubs and want to look better and heal from injuries quicker.
Chrusch added that his younger patients are less likely to use steroids because they face random testing at the high school and college levels, particularly during playoff competitions.
Klementovich, a Clifton N.J. police officer, who faces 13 counts of attempted murder and related offenses, admitted in an email to his estranged wife that he used steroids and he mentioned dying several times, according to court records.
“I get angry,” Klementovich wrote in the email, according to court records. “Angry at this job and law enforcement. And it's them who I will take out my anger on.”
When police arrived Sunday afternoon at the Bittersweet Drive home in Doylestown Township to investigate a report of a dispute — a call that Klementovich made to lure police there — they found a manila envelope in the driveway with a note in which Klementovich revealed he was a cop with scoped rifles, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and a death wish.
Klementovich, who eventually surrendered to police, remains in Bucks County prison — on suicide watch - in lieu of 10 percent of $1 million bail. He has been ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said that if Klementovich were found to be abusing steroids, it likely would have little relevance to the case against him, since voluntary intoxication is not considered a defense. It could, though, be used as an argument for mitigating circumstances, Heckler said.
According to news reports, Klementovich — a 42-year-old Desert Storm veteran who served in the Army Airborne — has been a Clifton officer since 1998, though he is now suspended without pay, according to a department spokesman. He recently was on a four-week leave for a non-work related physical injury.
Steroids are not part of the twice-annual random drug testing protocol at the Clifton police department, Detective Sgt. Robert Bracken said. Steroid testing is only done if there is “specific indications of use,” he said, adding that the department does not release the number of officers it has tested for steroid use.
But Hoberman said his research shows that steroid use is rampant among those in the law enforcement, a profession that attracts action-oriented males who are generally more disposed to body building. Police also face great pressure to present an image of physical strength.
“Steroids are a vanity thing for the great majority of users,”Â he added. “Then the rationalizing on the part of some that this is workplace doping they have to do to stay safe.”
Falls police Lt. Hank Ward has been trained to spot steroid abuse, but it hasn't been an issue he's dealt with.
“In a department my size it would be hard to miss all of the signs,” he added, “but in bigger departments, the abuser could maybe hide easier.”anabolic steroids > felony > police > public official > roid rage > steroids