Page last updated at 07:24 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Police officers using steroids 'open to corruption'

By Rowan Bridge
BBC Radio 5 live

Steroids
Senior officers have issued guidance to police forces over steroids

An internal police report is warning that steroid use by police officers could leave them open to corruption.

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Goacher spent three years at the front line fighting police corruption as the head of the professional standards unit at Derbyshire Police.

He was responsible for investigating police officers suspected of wrongdoing, and says around 80% of the cases he came across could be linked back to steroids, gyms and the night-time economy.

There were only a handful, maybe 10 over three years, but he says they were extremely damaging to the force.

"We had a case whereby information was released concerning a person's identity, and subsequently damage was caused to that person's address," DCI Goacher says.

"People were convicted of manslaughter because the person subject to the damage subsequently had a heart attack, so we are talking serious consequences as a result of this.

"There was a definite link in these cases to gyms and, I believe, steroids."

Culture

DCI Goacher's concerns are reflected at the highest levels of the police service.

Mike Cunningham
Officers are putting themselves in a position of vulnerability, in that they can become beholden to people who are supplying them with steroids
Chief Constable Mike Cunningham

A restricted internal report by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) raises similar concerns that police officers using steroids could find themselves becoming corrupted.

"When officers use steroids, then they are becoming part of a culture - often within a gymnasium - where they are accessing steroids," says Mike Cunningham, the chief constable of Staffordshire Police, who chairs the Acpo anti-corruption group.

"They are accessing them from people who sometimes have criminal association.

"Officers are putting themselves in a position of vulnerability, in that they can become beholden to people who are supplying them with steroids.

"There have been occasions when officers have been used by those criminals to provide information."

'Trust and confidence'

Last month, 27-year-old former Metropolitan Police officer Justin Weaver from Birchgrove, near Swansea, pleaded guilty to supplying steroids and conspiring to unlawfully obtain information from the South Wales Police intelligence system.

Acpo says cases of corruption involving steroids are rare, though it does not know the exact numbers because there have been no systematic studies of their use among police officers.

The concern though is that when they do happen they are extremely damaging to the service.

"Whenever an officer is convicted of corruption, then that is a big deal for the service because that strikes at the heart of the trust and confidence that communities can and should have in the police service", says Mr Cunningham.

Prison

Surfing the bodybuilding message boards periodically, you will find a discussion about steroids and the police - bodybuilders asking if the police test for them, for example - either because they are thinking of joining the police force, or are just curious.

According to the Home Office, possession for personal use is legal, but anyone producing or possessing them with intent to supply to other people can face up to 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Given the concerns raised by Acpo, it is perhaps not surprising they take a strong line against their use by officers.

Mr Cunningham says they have issued guidance to forces saying they should be aware of police officers going to gyms, and if their appearance is changing for the need to intervene early.

He says there is a need for them to be given "the advice and the guidance and the direction that they will need before they get entangled in something that is often bigger than they can cope with".



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