Law enforcement officers and DUI: time to get to the root of the problem
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on March 4th, 2010
Twice in the last three months, Philadelphia-area law enforcement officers have been involved in off-duty vehicle accidents that allegedly involve driving under the influence of alcohol.
For law enforcement officers, who absolutely, positively must be accountable to a higher standard than the people they are sworn to protect, that is unacceptable.
Last month, a 23-year-old off-duty Philadelphia Police officer was driving north on I-95 near Girard Avenue when his vehicle crashed into the rear of a state police car while two state troopers were assisting a tow truck driver who was preparing to remove an abandoned car, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The two troopers and the two truck driver sustained injuries and the off-duty city officer was being investigated for DUI and was placed on desk duty.
In January, a 47-year-old, Philadelphia-based DUI expert and corporal for the Pennsylvania State Police was charged with drunken driving, careless driving and an open container violation in connection with an accident Dec. 17 when his car struck a guardrail on Route 422, according to a story in the Philadelphia Daily News. He was placed on administrative leave while the incident was being investigated.
We know that police officers are human like the rest of us and that this doesn’t only occur here in Philadelphia, but individual law enforcement agencies across the nation must work harder to stop this problem, and quickly.
It’s bad enough being involved in a vehicle accident. What makes it even worse is if you are hit by a vehicle driven by a drunken police officer, who is supposed to be out there protecting us all – even if they are “off-duty.”
We need to have effective alcohol treatment programs to help law enforcement officers who have drinking problems. And deny it or not, if they are driving drunk, they have drinking problems.
We need to have better mechanisms inside police departments to help officers who are showing signs of such problems. That means counseling programs, rehab programs and other support for officers who are troubled.
Yes, police work is an incredibly stressful, often violent and difficult job, but overconsumption of alcohol and illegal drugs is not the answer.
We need to help officers who are having these kinds of problems and encourage better, more productive coping mechanisms.
Law enforcement officers, as part of their jobs and responsibilities, automatically must live up to this higher standard of behavior because we give them the powers to watch over us if we behave in such irresponsible ways. There is no credibility in the legal system if law enforcement officers can be arrested for drunken driving one day and then arrest any of us and charge us with drunken driving on a different day.