City Hall

Council Members May Ask SPD to Authorize Steroid Testing

By Erica C. Barnett February 25, 2011

Members of the Seattle City Council are reportedly sending a letter to the heads of the Seattle Police Officers Guild and the Seattle Police Management Association this afternoon that will ask the unions to consider authorizing steroid testing when police officers use force against civilians.

In the past year, several high-profile incidents of police use of force against citizens---the infamous "Mexican piss" incident (in which a department review found that the SPD officer acted lawfully, a decision that's reportedly likely to be upheld), and the shooting of John T. Williams---have raised questions about whether SPD fosters a culture of violence against civilians.

SPOG is currently in negotiations with the city's Labor Relations Policy Committee, which includes council members and representatives of the mayor's office and city departments, over the renewal of its contract with the city. It's unclear whether the LRPC brought up steroid use during the initial phase of negotiations; if they didn't, it may be too late to put the issue on the table.

Earlier this week, music promoter Dave Meinert wrote an editorial on PubliCola calling on SPD to test for steroids any time an officer is involved with a shooting or use of force.

Currently, SPD can test for steroids on a "suspicion" basis---if they have reason to believe an officer is using the drugs. However, there is no provision in the union's contract that provides for testing in response to an officer's use of force.

City council member Nick Licata has raised the issue of steroid testing before, and is meeting with the city's law department next week to determine whether use of force could trigger a "fit-for-duty assessment"--a checklist of tests that includes things like whether the officer's eyes are bloodshot, whether his balance or speech is impaired, and whether he seems excessively fearful or nervous. If an officer is found to not be fit for duty, SPD can test him for drugs.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger did an exhaustive three-part series on steroid use within New Jersey police departments here.

Council public safety committee chair Tim Burgess would not say anything about the purported letter, saying only, "I'm not going to talk about that."
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