ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - A plan to randomly test all police officers for steroids in Arlington, will make the city among the most stringent in North Texas in testing for the drug. Many departments don't test for steroids, even though doping experts say they are used prevalently by law enforcement.
The plan announced by Chief Will Johnson Thursday, will bring the city closer to the policy followed by Dallas. The department there randomly tests officers for narcotics, including steroids, up to three times per year.
Fort Worth and Denton also randomly test officers. Those tests don't routinely look for steroids though, unless there was reasonable suspicion to ask for the specific test.
Other cities like Keller and Richardson follow a policy closer to what Arlington currently has in place. Tests are done before hiring, after an accident with an injury, or under suspicion of use. Arlington also tested before promotions.
The new policy on testing follows a federal investigation involving three Arlington officers related to buying and distributing the drugs. One officer involved, David Vo, committed suicide this week. Another, Thomas Kantzos, is facing charges related to using his police computer to tip off a supplier.
University of Texas professor and longtime doping researcher John Hoberman said testing for steroids by law enforcement is still uncommon, despite prevalent use in the profession. It is a nationwide problem he said, but now one that is well know.
"He (the police chief) just may not think it's much of a problem," he said. "He may harbor this functionalist idea that he might be getting a better cop out of the guy who's on steroids."
Cost of testing, which can range from $140 to close to $400 can be a deterrent Hoberman said. There could also be concerns about bad publicity that could result from positive tests.
In a video posted on YouTube Friday by Arlington Police, Corporal Jack Gariota referenced the public perception.
"People will look at us, the community may look at us, as all the same," he said. "Because there's that level of distrust now that one or two individuals have created for the rest of the officers."
Don Hooton, President of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which combats the use of steroids by athletes, said law enforcement personnel often acknowledge there is a problem with the drug in the profession. Athletes are aware of that he said, causing them not to be afraid of being caught themselves. And testing that is instituted he said, may not always be broad enough to catch every variation of drug.
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