Officially OK for Cops to Be Half-Drunk on Duty?

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on February 19th, 2013

In today's double-standards department…

Many Suburban Cops Allowed to Work "Half Drunk"

Chicago, IL.  Feb 15 — Do you think your police department has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol?

Think again.

Many suburban departments actually have clauses in their union contracts which prevent any kind of discipline for officers with substantial amounts of alcohol in their systems — even those nearing the state definition of legally drunk, an investigation by the Better Government Association and NBC Chicago reveals.

"I worry about it every day," said Sam Pulia, the mayor of west suburban Westchester.

Pulia, himself a former Westchester police officer, tried unsuccessfully to stop ratification of his department’s union contract which only allows discipline against officers when they hit an alcohol level of .05.

"I could argue that you are half drunk," Pulia said. "I still believe that police officers are held to a higher standard."

Pulia argues that no one with alcohol in their systems should be driving a squad car or carrying a gun… 

Westchester is not alone. Police in Forest Park, Glendale Heights, and South Barrington also have a limit of .05. In Elmwood Park and Oak Park, the limit is the state definition of legally drunk: .08 or higher.

"I think it places the city at great risk," said Walter Zalisko, a retired police chief who now runs Police Management Consultants International in Fort Myers, Fla. "Zero would be the wise choice, that you can’t have any alcohol."

But how much alcohol really is too much? Although the Illinois State Police and Cook County Sheriff have set their limits at zero, many police departments say they believe some low limits must be built in to allow for incidentals such as a glass of wine at dinner before the overnight shift or even a shot of cough medicine.

"People who are more used to drinking will have less impairment," said Dr. David Zich of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "However, we still believe in subtle testing, that there really is no safe level at which no impairment occurs."

Indeed, Zich says scores of studies have indicated that even at lower blood alcohol levels, some kind of impairment occurs — especially regarding drowsiness, tasks requiring divided attention, or "tracking" activities, which would include driving a car.

"Don't Drink and Drive"….unless you're a cop on duty and packing a gun.

  • Ari

    In Illinois, the legal limit for alcohol for people with CDLs is 0.04%; I guess driving a truck requires more care and presence of mind than carrying a gun.

  • Tim

    It use to be, that a policeman serving the public good would drive a suspected drunk driver home,take his keys and tell him/her that they better not be seen out at all the rest of the night, and you could come get your keys at the station in the morning or 24 hrs. later.
    Now it's become nothing more than a hypocracy created by zealots of a majority group bent on revenue attainment. It's about money, not safety.
    I  know policemen who will be retiring soon and they can't WAIT! The reason? They say younger cops now a days are about themselves. The power the badge gives them, and what they gain from that power.
    When you see sheriiffs, cops,politicians,and cocaine addicted lawyers, skating on OWI charges yet the people Must pay thee ultimate punishment? You know this isn't america anymore.

  • Tim

    Hey Ari- if you take a dose of Ny-quil  and commecial drive? You can get it  for OWI? So you're not allowed to even combat a cold if you drive commercially.
    Zealotry- MADD? Oh yes! Had one MADD representive call my wife after getting a OWI-Blew a .10 even ate, before hand.  Told my wife I should be PUT to DEATH? Nice people, those MADD.