As the rhetoric by local politicians heats up over the use of unnecessary and excessive force by Seattle Police Department officers, elected officials have still failed to come forward with a specific, concrete proposal to reform the department. That's unfortunate. The SPD is desperately in need of reform, and now---with the police union in the middle of labor negotiations and the public crying out for changes---is the ideal time to make it happen.
We need to take advantage of this opportunity. In light of the lack of ideas coming from our elected representatives, I think it's time to present some. Here's one to start: Do random drug tests for use of steroids, testosterone and HCG (an artificial form of testosterone) . The violent actions of officers that have recently been at issue in Seattle could point to steroid use.
And let's not just test randomly. Any time an officer is involved in a shooting, they should be immediately tested. And any time an officer is accused of unnecessary force, he should be tested as well.
Use of steroids is a growing trend, and problem, among police departments across the nation. And while other major law enforcement agencies, such as Phoenix, Dallas, Albuquerque, Boston and New York, include steroids in their random drug tests, Seattle politicians don't seem to even know this is a problem.
In 2009, 11 officers in Boston were disciplined after a three-year investigation into steroid use by the FBI and the U.S Attorney.
In 2010, a Newark Star Ledger investigation found that 248 police officers and firefighters had obtained steroids through a single doctor, and that taxpayers often footed the bill, costing law-enforcement agencies millions of dollars and involving possible insurance fraud (steroids aren't covered by police insurance unless they are for an actual medical issue).
And this isn't a new problem.
According to an article that appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin in 1991: "Anabolic steroid abuse by police officers is a serious problem that merits greater awareness by departments across the country."
Steroid use has been anecdotally associated with several brutality cases and racially motivated violence by police officers, including the 1997 sodomizing of an Haitian immigrant in New York.
Gene Sanders, a Spokane police psychologist and former Los Angeles cop, estimates that up to 25 percent of all police officers in urban settings with gangs and high crime use steroids.
To our elected officials: If you really care about police reform, get on it. Don't blow another opportunity to reform the SPD. And while you're at it, please ask the Department of Justice to add steroids to their investigation of the SPD.
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