There are many reminders from our Department about the number of alcohol-related arrests, most of them DUIs, that are occurring within our circle. Every time you log on to a Department computer, you are met with a message reminding you about policy violations and the consequences, or a notice about the number of arrests that have occurred within our Department so far this year. Do you still read these, or do you click on “I agree” as quickly as possible? The messages can seem like you’re constantly being hit over the head with this information, but I wonder how many employees see the intent behind the posts: to stem the tide of increasing arrests.
At the time of this writing (mid-April), there have been nine alcohol-related arrests this year, seven of which were DUIs and the other two 647(f). I wonder why so many Department members continue taking chances. I have also heard from several of our peers who share my sentiment and don’t understand how so many people can see others getting arrested, disciplined and hit hard financially for something so easy to avoid and then do the same thing. Is it the badge in the back pocket that makes some feel invincible? If so, let me be the one to tell you that the “brass pass” doesn’t work all that often in these cases.
While we may have heard of an instance where “professional courtesy” has been exercised, it is very uncommon. Most DUI arrests are made by the CHP, and this is not because they are out gunning for cops, but rather because that agency has a zero-tolerance policy on DUIs and the fact that you are a cop is of no consequence. A few of those stopped by CHP officers said they were apologetic but had no wiggle room on the arrest. The discipline policy for the CHP is stricter than LASD, with the first-time DUI costing 30 days on the bricks compared to our 15. A second DUI for a CHP officer can mean termination. This brings up another possibility of why so many still risk so much. Is it because word gets around that you won’t get fired for a first-time DUI and losing three weeks’ pay is minimal to some people?
I’ve written this before, and I know that not everyone agrees with it, but sworn members of the Department are held to a higher standard. Even non-sworn members of the Department are looked at differently by the public, who typically believe that as a member of a law enforcement agency you should know better. Honestly, how can anyone argue with these points? None of us can honestly say that we are unaware that driving under the influence of alcohol is not only wrong, but also illegal. For those of us who are sworn, we learn this in the Academy, but if you are a civilian member of our Department, there is no doubt that you also know it’s criminal to drink and drive.
If you’re experiencing problems in your life and you believe it might be due to your drinking, consider calling Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 to talk with me or one of the licensed clinical psychologists. You could also give one of the people listed here a call. They’ve been there and know what it’s like. If you need help, don’t put off getting it now. Remember, it’s like asking for backup.