Taylor Hooton Foundation > Hoot’s Corner > General > ‘Roid Rage: Are steroids behind the worst police brutality cases?
September 2, 2015
‘Roid Rage: Are steroids behind the worst police brutality cases?
Video shows police taking down a homeless man in San Francisco (YouTube)In 2004, the growing menace of steroid abuse by American police officers prompted the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to warn of the “possible psychological disturbances” of juiced-up cops. The DEA said symptoms included:
  • Mood swings (including manic-like symptoms leading to violence)
  • Impaired judgment (stemming from feelings of invincibility)
  • Depression
  • Nervousness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Delusions
  • Hostility and aggression
Four years later, the influential International Association of Chiefs of Police, with 16,000 members around the globe, approved a resolution that “calls upon state and local law enforcement entities to establish a model policy prohibiting the use of illegally obtained steroids” by officers. That hasn’t happened. Today, there still is no standardized policy for steroid testing of cops, and evidence suggests there is less random testing now than a decade ago, under an ever-changing hodge-podge of local directives hammered out through collective bargaining. Many who follow the issue closely were surprised last month when the 4,000-member Phoenix Police Department, which became the standard-bearer for aggressive testing after a local steroids scandal involving cops and firefighters in 2007, publicly admitted it had stopped random testing of officers. Kim Humphrey, the Phoenix police commander who oversaw the testing, has an international reputation as a steroid-test advocate. In 2008, Humphrey co-authored a persuasive article in Police Chief magazine about the need for a coherent and comprehensive strategy against officer abuse of steroids. “What law enforcement is finding is there’s a whole lot more people [police officers] who are going to test positive for this than for cocaine or anything else,” Humphrey told a reporter in 2011. “You don’t want anyone carrying a gun — having a rage or a mood problem or a depression problem — [while] taking a drug they shouldn’t be taking.” So what changed between 2011 and 2014? Like many police departments, Phoenix decided random testing was too expensive and ineffective, in part because police officers had grown adept at masking steroid use. “This is one of the dirty little secrets of American law enforcement,” says Gregory Gilbertson, a former Atlanta cop who teaches criminal justice in the Seattle area and works as a legal expert on police standards and practices. “Steroid testing is declining, and I think there’s an attitude in all these agencies of ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ because they don’t want to know about it. Because if they know about it, then they have to address it.”