In May of 2014, Edmonton Police Service (EPS) made the biggest steroid bust in the history of the organization. They raided two apartments, one in Edmonton, and the other in my hometown of Fort Saskatchewan, seizing over $600,000 worth of drugs from a steroid production lab. They arrested Rees Baron—a Fort Saskatchewan man who I immediately recognized. He's the same man who used to give me tips at the gym.
It was pretty obvious that Baron was juicing—he was huge—but apparently performance enhancing drugs aren't just for gym rats or athletes. Over the past two years, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) conducted an extensive investigation into the EPS after being tipped off that one officer was selling anabolic steroids. Last week, they released their findings.
Two long-serving EPS officers have been charged with trafficking anabolic steroids. Det. Greg Lewis, a 10-year veteran was charged with three counts of trafficking in a controlled substance and Cst. Darren French, a 25-year veteran, was charged with trafficking in a controlled substance. Lewis is charged with trafficking Stanozolol, Ben Johnson's steroid of choice, and two types of testosterone. French has been charged with trafficking only Stanozolol. The ASIRT reports that these were separate incidents. Both officers have been relieved from duty without pay.
"It should be noted that there is no evidence to suggest that the trafficking in steroids in this case was commercial operation or that it was done for commercial gain," stated Susan Hughson, executive director of ASIRT, at a press conference the day of the report's release.
Instead, the investigation indicates that the officers sold the steroids to their fellow officers.
Anabolic steroid use within a police force isn't all that surprising, considering that police work is a high-intensity job. Police forces in Ontario (both in Peel and Guelph) have had similar occurrences and have had to reprimand officers. For Rees Baron, being in shape was a lifestyle, but for a police officer it can realistically mean the difference between life and death. Not just for the officer, but also for a suspect: if an officer can physically restrain you then they are less likely to use weapons.
Dr. Charles E. Yesalis, Professor Emeritus at Penn State University, is one of the world's foremost experts on performance enhancing drugs and isn't surprised that steroids were found in Edmonton's policing community. The former White House consultant on drug policy told VICE that this is nothing new. For decades, Yesalis has seen officers using performance enhancing drugs at all levels of policing.
"The police officers with whom I've interacted with—be it at the local, state, or federal level—one thing you often hear is if you have a greater physical presence, the probability of escalation of violence decreases," Yesalis told VICE.
"Who would you pick on first, Bambi or Godzilla?"
Now, obviously the first worry that comes to mind is, "Well, if these officers are juicing then aren't they going to be suffering from fits of roid rage?" The last thing citizens need are juiced-up officers with lethal weapons prowling city streets, on the verge of snapping. Yesalis explains that cases of "roid rage," which he defines as "a spontaneous fit or episode of violent behaviour," are very rare in users of anabolic steroids.
"I'd be far more concerned, dramatically more concerned, about an officer who was an alcoholic," stated Yesalis.
The ASIRT report isn't the first time that French has found himself in hot water. In 2001, French found his conduct being called into question when he went to court regarding the use of excessive force. According to the case file, on October 11, 1997, French happened upon two men who were fighting after one allegedly cheated the other out of $25 worth of cocaine. When French arrived there was a scuffle and Terry Bolianatz, the instigator of the fight, ended up being kicked by French, very hard, right in the dick.
After the situation calmed down, French drove Bolianatz home and instructed his sister-in-law to take him to the hospital. When there "he was told to ice his testicles, which he did, and was released." He later returned after his testical had swollen up and surgery had to be performed. After the surgery, Bolianatz said that the damaged testicle "is now the size of a pea and he feels like a freak."
The case was dismissed, and French was cleared of the charges. It is unknown what happened to Bolianatz and his asymmetrical balls.
Aside from French and Lewis, six additional officers have been reassigned to positions where they will have less interaction with the public. All of these officers have allegedly purchased and or used steroids.
It is important to realize that the officers implicated in this report are just eight out of a possible 2,500 EPS employees. That said, any corruption that occurs within a police force, no matter how small, is of immense importance. At a press conference regarding this report, Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht stated that "Edmontonians expect their police officers to be honest and ethical and to answer to a higher standard" and that this behaviour undermines the cities public trust in the police.
Knecht is correct, this incident does undermine public trust. How can officers who don't regulate themselves regulate us?
"I've known police officers at various levels who use these drugs and they are fine upstanding law enforcement people. So I'm not aghast at that like some people are," explained Yesalis. "On the other side of the coin, what they did was against the law—they took an oath to uphold the law, so that in and of itself is highly problematic."
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