Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Police OK'd to Test For Steroids

By T.J. Wilham, Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer

Concerned that steroid use can trigger outbursts of rage and unpredictable behavior, the Albuquerque Police Department will soon begin testing some of its employees for anabolic steroids.
For the past several years, APD has had a random drug testing policy in place. But the only steroid testing it did was of all new officers before being hired, as required by state law.
Now, under a new procedure recently approved by city leaders, police administrators can test any officer or civilian employee who demonstrates signs of steroid use.
Police Chief Ray Schultz already wants to test one of his civilian employees after other employees said they noticed changes in the person's appearance.
"Under this new procedure, we need some sort of reasonable suspicion in order to test," Schultz said. "Change of behavior, their physical appearance or reliable information they are users would be good enough for us to order the employee to take a test.
"It's important we do this because we are finding more and more that the use of anabolic steroids can result in rage or unpredictable behavior."
For a police employee to be tested for steroids, Schultz has to write a letter to the city's human resources director requesting the test and stating "reasonable suspicion."
The employee must take the test once the request is approved by the human resources director and the city chief administrative officer. Refusal could result in termination.
A positive result also could result in termination.
APD developed a policy several years ago that allows administrators to randomly test its officers. Under the policy, a computer generates a list of about 20 officers every two weeks.
At a cost of $30 to the department, the officer takes a urinalysis test that determines whether narcotics such as marijuana, methamphetamine or cocaine have recently been used.
Schultz said there were no plans to include steroid tests in the random drug testing. To do so would likely involve negotiations with the department's union.
And the cost for testing for steroids is $130 per test. That would cost the department more than $67,000 a year.
Schultz inquired in July about testing for steroids after being told one of his employees might be using them. City attorneys reviewed the request, and under a medical evaluation policy adopted in 2001, they determined Schultz had the right to request the test.
This month, city attorneys developed a procedure that allows him to do so.
Under the 2001 policy, city department heads can request drug tests if they believe an employee is not physically or mentally capable of performing their duties.
Albuquerque Police Officers' Association President Ron Olivas said he was unaware of the new procedure.
However, he said he didn't object to it.
"I guess they don't have to consult us, but it would have been nice to know so we could inform our members," he said. "We don't have a problem with it as long as there is something in place to ensure the officers' rights are protected and they are not doing this without some sort of just cause."

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