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?
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.