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Third Circuit Upholds Police Officer Steroid Testing

By Dyanna Quizon, Esq. | Last updated on

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the constitutionality of testing police officers for steroids.

Approximately 250 police officers and firefighters, including several from the Jersey City police force, were accused of getting prescriptions for anabolic steroids and human growth hormones. In response, Jersey City police chief Tom Comey ordered his officers to test for the performance-enhancing drugs and suspended them from active duty until their testosterone levels went down in 2008.

Some of the officers filed suit, arguing that the tests violated their civil rights and that the drugs were legally prescribed to help with legitimate medical conditions. Comey claimed that the officers on steroids could have been a risk to the public given that the drugs have been tied to mood swings and aggressive behavior.

The lower court sided with Comey, ruling that the steroid tests and temporary suspension was reasonable given the government's interest in regulating the police and police officers' diminished expectations of privacy.

The Third Circuit agreed with the lower circuit, upholding its finding that police officers' have diminished expectations of privacy and the drug tests were supported by reasonable suspicion.

In upholding the lower court's decision, the Third Circuit also addresses the little-discussed issue of testing for performance-enhancing drugs obtained with a prescription, which could have far-ranging implications for law enforcement agencies beyond Jersey City.

"In the past, police officials have tended to back off of strict enforcement, because they simply did not know how to handle medical claims by officers," University of Texas professor John Hoberman told The Star-Ledger. "This judge has refused to allow the medical claim to dictate the outcome of the case, and that is a breakthrough for the anti-steroid rules that many departments have not enforced in a consistent way."

With the Third Circuit's recent decision and New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow's summer initiative to allow police departments to do random testing for performance-enhancing drugs, it's probably best that public safety officers stay off the 'roids.

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