Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board

There are 14,000 cops and 9,000 prison guards in Arizona and they appear to be regulated by the "Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board"

February 10, 2008 - 7:47AM
Sheriff's office fires back on steroids issue

Dennis Welch, Tribune

A spokesman for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Saturday that the agency takes a hard stance against deputies who abuse anabolic steroids.

Capt. Paul Chagolla’s comments came after the Tribune reported online Friday and in Saturday’s newspapers that the sheriff’s office is the only law enforcement agency in the state to publicly oppose a proposed measure that would crack down on officers found misusing the performance enhancing drugs.

Chagolla said the sheriff does not oppose the idea of a statewide policy that would punish officers and deputies who abuse the muscle-building drugs. But, Arpaio has problems with the policy proposed by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.

“We fire people for use of steroids,” Chagolla said.

David Hendershott, Arpaio’s chief deputy, in January spoke against the proposal by the standards and training board, which would revoke an officer’s certification if he or she were found using the drugs without a valid medical reason.

If the board passes the measure, officers who abuse the drugs would be taken off the streets — effectively ending their law enforcement careers.

The board certifies every law enforcement official for the state’s 170 agencies, roughly 14,000 sworn officers, according to the board’s Web site. It also offers training for nearly 9,000 prison and jail guards.

Hendershott told the standards and training board that he was concerned the sheriff’s office would face lawsuits from deputies or doctors if the proposal was implemented.

On Saturday, Chagolla said sheriff’s officials are concerned about the proposed policy because it might require physicians to testify against their patients, violating doctor-patient confidentiality laws.

“How do you get a doctor to testify against their own patients? How do you get around HIPAA laws?” Chagolla said.

Hendershott, second in command at the department, never mentioned doctor-patient confidentiality when he criticized the proposal during the Jan. 23 Rules Advisory Committee meeting.

He said he feared the proposal would lead to a string of lawsuits, according to an audio recording of the meeting.

“I’m just really concerned that we’re going to go down a rat hole that we’re never going to climb out of again,” he said. “Because I see a lot of lawsuits, I see a lot of litigation, I would certainly like to have an exception that there’s an opt-out by agencies because frankly I get sued enough and I think this is going to cause them.”

When asked to clarify those statements last week, both he and Arpaio declined to speak to the Tribune.

The issue of doctor-patient confidentially was raised by other officials representing other agencies attending the meeting.

However, Hendershott was the only one asking for a provision that would allow law enforcement departments to opt out of the proposed steroid policy.

The standards and training board will take up the issue again at its next rules committee meeting in March in Rio Rico.

Sheriff’s deputies do not generally undergo random drug testing after an initial test when they are hired, Chagolla said.

Instead, the department requires its employees to submit to drug testing when reasonable suspicions or credible allegations arise, he said.

Exceptions sometimes include certain undercover officers involved in drug enforcement. In some of those cases, Chagolla said, these officers face random drug testing.

Law enforcement agencies already have the power to fire officers who have obtained anabolic steroids illegally. However, agencies are raising questions about what to do with officers who have obtained such drugs using methods described as “quasi-legal.” For example, there have been cases where officers ordered the muscle-building drugs online or have lied to doctors in order to get a prescription.

Members of the law enforcement community are concerned that using the drugs could cloud an officer’s judgment and lead to overly aggressive behavior known as “roid-rage.”


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