Investigations in Oregon, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, New York and other states have in recent years found disturbing evidence of police officers abusing steroids. But Connecticut police insist they’ve never seen it here.
A national expert who’s been studying steroid use in all types of subcultures from athletics to the military believes “tens of thousands” of cops all across the U.S. are on such illegal drugs. But the head of the largest police union in this state, a man who spent 20 years with the Milford P.D., says the issue has never even been raised in any Connecticut disciplinary hearing he knows about.
A recent scandal in New Jersey turned up 248 public safety officials - most of them cops - who were getting steroids prescribed by a steroid-abusing doctor, and New Jersey officials responded by ordering random police drug testing. But a Connecticut State Police spokesman says his department doesn’t do that.
Just last month, a federal appeals court ruled a New Jersey police chief was within his rights to order several of his officers to undergo testing for steroids, strip them of their weapons and put them on desk duty.
But state Rep. Stephen Dargan, the long-time co-chairman of the Connecticut legislature’s Public Safety Committee, says he’s never, ever even heard of questions about police steroid abuse being voiced in this state. “That’s a new one on me,” he says.
John Hoberman is a University of Texas professor who’s spent 25 years studying the social implications of widespread steroid use among professional and amateur athletes, body builders, the military and police.
And statements from Connecticut law enforcement officials that they don’t believe cop-steroid abuse is a significant problem here, or the fact that the issue hasn’t even been raised before in this state, comes as no surprise to Hoberman.
“This has been a suppressed and under-reported story,” he says of steroids and the cops. He has found most police departments “prefer to deal with [steroid abuse] as an internal matter” rather than have it become public.
Hoberman says he’s collected “hundreds of reports” of such cases from around the U.S., Canada, Scotland and England.
“This is not an isolated phenomenon - it’s a country-wide phenomenon,” he adds.
The biggest concern most people have over steroid “juiced” cops is the potential for increased aggression in someone who’s armed and trained to use everything from pepper spray and stun guns to firearms. And one result of the New Jersey scandal is a spate of civil lawsuits claiming excessive use of force by some of the officers implicated in steroid abuse.
Connecticut has had its share of police scandals, including a recent federal investigation that found East Haven cops routinely harassed and abused Latino drivers. The feds also reported those local cops often used excessive force, but there’s been no discussion of the possibility of steroid abuse.
Hoberman says so-called ‘Roid Rage’ isn’t actually a common side effect of steroid use. “It’s too simple to assume that steroids are causing violent behavior,” he points out. He says steroid abuse by a police officer is often a good indicator that he (and steroid abuse is almost exclusively limited to males) is having other serious problems.
There is also the problem that a cop buying an illegal drug like steroids, either from a corrupt doctor or on the black market, “is making himself vulnerable to blackmail or pressure,” Hoberman says.
At the same time, that potential for aggressive behavior is a worrisome part of the whole issue. An article in the June 2008 edition ofÂ The Police Chief, a magazine billing itself as “The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement,” listed “increased self-confidence, increased activity, impaired judgment, and reckless behavior” as some of the possible side effects of steroid abuse. Not what you’re looking for in dudes allowed to carry guns on the job.
According to Hoberman, many police officers who get caught in steroid scandals claim they needed to do it to bulk up and increase their physical fitness in order to handle confrontations with drug addicts and bad-ass street criminals.
“I don’t think this is an adequate rationale for steroid use,” Hoberman says. He says his research indicates that most cops who use such drugs are doing it for basically the same reason as everyone else: “For cosmetic purposes.”
“Young men want to look good,” Hoberman says, arguing most 18- to 34-year-old abusers use steroids “in order to look ripped and well defined.”
Jeffrey Matchett spent 20 years as a cop in Milford and now heads AFSCME Local 15, Connecticut’s biggest police union with some 4,000 members. He says questions about police steroid abuse in this state “is a surprise to me. … I haven’t seen this occurring.”
Matchett says there is no statewide standard for random drug testing for police in Connecticut and that the issue is left up to individual police collective bargaining units.