NEWARK, N.J. — Jersey City's police chief was within his rights to require officers to submit to drug tests for anabolic steroids, a federal appeals court has ruled.
The Tuesday decision by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia dismissed a lawsuit by three officers who claimed their rights were violated when they were removed from active duty while awaiting the test results. All three were prescribed steroids legally for medical conditions.
The suit could be revived if the court agrees to re-hear the case. D. Gayle Loftis, an attorney for the officers, said Friday she will file an appeal in the next two weeks asking the court to reconsider its decision.
The names of the three officers and their New York pharmacy turned up in an unrelated investigation into illegal anabolic steroid use by New York Police Department officers. The probe did not incriminate the three officers.
Jersey City Police Chief Thomas Comey then placed the three officers on modified duty and had them give up their weapons while they awaited results of the drug tests in 2008.
Two of the officers stopped the treatments and the third was suspended without pay for five months when he tried to continue treatment at lower doses but had unacceptably elevated testosterone levels, according to court papers.
In their lawsuit, the officers argued that their rights were violated when they were forced to undergo the drug tests for prescription drugs. But a U.S. District Court judge ruled last year that, because of the nature of their job and its importance to the public, they could not expect the same level of privacy as other citizens.
The federal appeals court agreed.
"This Court has held specifically that a police department may require its officers to divulge information about prescription drug use so long as the information is directly related to the interest of the police department in ensuring that its officers are physically and mentally able to perform the job," the three-judge panel wrote Tuesday.
Loftis said she will argue on appeal that the district court ruled without considering any evidence, scientific or otherwise, but instead relied on observation that high steroid levels have been linked to aggressive behavior to justify the chief's decision to modify the officers duties and suspend one of them.
"Somebody saying the word 'steroids' just plays right into the hysteria that pro baseball seems to have ignited," she said. "Nobody is looking beyond that or into any of this. There were no studies produced at trial because there was no trial."