Posted in: Commentary,
by Gregg Laskoski on May 2, 2012 02:04 PM
Back in September, Luke Lamb, 31, of Greenfield, IL, received a speeding ticket from an off-duty St. Louis County police officer whom he said he later saw order a bucket of beers and drink several of them in his presence, and then drove off in a patrol car. Lamb filed a complaint.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the police department spokesman said at the time that officers are allowed to use patrol cars and make traffic stops while not on duty. The department's policy does not allow officers to drink at all while on duty, but officers are bound by the same 0.08 percent blood alcohol limit as anyone else when driving off-duty.
Lamb said: "I'm accusing him of drinking and then driving a publicly owned squad car. What he did is unbecoming of an officer." (I guess Lamb considered the impression an officer with beer breath might have on an unsuspecting motorist.)
Flash forward to May 2, 2012. Christine Byers at the Post-Dispatch reports that the county has changed its policy. Cops can still drink, just not as much as everybody else at the bar if they're driving a patrol car home.
She reports: "The department has enacted a policy that sets the blood-alcohol content at 0.04 for off-duty officers who use take-home cars or are called during an emergency. That is half the 0.08 standard in Missouri and Illinois to be considered too drunk to drive.
County Police Chief Tim Fitch said zero was unreasonable.
"It's impractical to tell an officer you can never have alcohol, because you can be called out at a moment's notice," he said.
Huh? If police officers are off-duty and driving their own vehicles, then yes, they're entitled to a drink as long as they're being responsible. But when they're driving vehicles being paid for by county taxpayers, I think the public has the right to determine the acceptable terms for operating those vehicles. Is it asking too much to ask police to be alcohol-free when driving a patrol car? Remember when we expected police to set an example?