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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.
1. SOME OPERATING ASSUMPTIONS
THE BAD NEWS is...
police abuse is a serious problem. It has a long history, and it seems to defy all attempts at eradication.
The problem is national: no police department in the country is known to be completely free of misconduct. Yet it must be fought locally: the nation's 19,000 law enforcement agencies are essentially independent. While some federal statutes specify criminal penalties for willful violations of civil rights and conspiracies to violate civil rights, the United States Department of Justice has been insufficiently aggressive in prosecuting cases of police abuse. There are shortcomings, too, in federal law itself, which does not permit "pattern and practice" lawsuits. The battle against police abuse must, therefore, be fought primarily on the local level.
Forget the "crime rate." The "crime rate" figures cited by government officials are based on the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) system, which has several serious flaws. To name only a few: First, the UCR only measures reported crime. Second, since the system is not independently audited there are no meaningful controls over how police departments use their crime data. Police officers can and do "unfound" crimes, meaning they decide that no crime occurred. They also "downgrade" crimes — for example, by officially classifying a rape as an assault. Third, reports can get "lost," either deliberately or inadvertently. There are many other technical problems that make the UCR a dubious measure of the extent of crime problems.
Forget the arrest rate. Police officers have broad discretion in making and recording arrests. The Police Foundation in Washington, D.C., which conducts research on policing issues, has found great variations among police departments in their recording of arrests. In many departments, police officers take people into custody, hold them at the station, question and then release them without filling out an arrest report. For all practical purposes, these people were arrested, but their arrests don't show up in the official data. Other departments record such arrests. Thus, the department that reports a lower number of arrests may actually be taking more people into custody than the department that reports more arrests.
New York magazine reported some telling figures last month on how delayed-notice search warrants -- also known as "sneak-and-peek" warrants -- have been used in recent years. Though passed with the PATRIOT Act and justified as a much-needed weapon in the war on terrorism, the sneak-and-peek was used in a terror investigation just 15 times between 2006 and 2009. In drug investigations, however, it was used more than 1,600 times during the same period.
It's a familiar storyline. In the 10 years since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, the government has claimed a number of new policing powers in the name of protecting the country from terrorism, often at the expense of civil liberties. But once claimed, those powers are overwhelmingly used in the war on drugs. Nowhere is this more clear than in the continuing militarization of America's police departments.
To be told you are there to help the community and then to be trained to abuse the community via taxation and arrest as your weapon of behavior correction is the problem. When did we accept the idea that taxation, arrest, and abuse from those in uniform is the best way to create a civilized society? Why do we accept this?
As the Supreme Court stated in City of Houston v. Hill, perhaps the seminal opinion in this area: “The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.”12 Secondly, we are less worried about the negative consequences of angry speech in this context because we expect more from police officers than we do from the average citizen: “a properly trained officer may reasonably be expected to „exercise a higher degree of restraint‟ than the average citizen, and thus be less likely to respond belligerently to „fighting words.‟”13