Union Contracts Allow Suburban Chicago Cops to Work While Drunk
Many police officers in suburban Chicago have union contracts allowing them to work and drive while “half-drunk,” and in at least two municipalities, with blood alcohol content levels that would land ordinary drivers in jail with drunk driving charges.
NBC 5 reports that many suburban Chicago police departments have clauses written into their union contracts that prevent any kind of discipline against officers found with blood alcohol levels near or at the limit of legal intoxication.
According to an NBC 5 and Better Government Association investigation, some area police departments have a zero-tolerance alcohol policy. Illinois State police, Cook County (Chicago) Sheriff’s deputies and Cook County Hospital police, as well as officers in Elmhurst, Evanston and Schaumburg must remain completely sober while on the job. Some municipalities, like the city of Chicago, Naperville, Tinley Park, Lake County and Will County, require their officers to maintain blood alcohol content levels at or below .02 or .03. In Arlington Heights, Forest Park, Glendale Heights, LaGrange Park, South Barrington and McHenry County, officers are allowed to effectively be “half-drunk,” with blood alcohol levels of .04 and .05 acceptable under the terms of their union contracts. And in Oak Park and Elmwood Park, officers are permitted to work– including the operation of motor vehicles and the use of firearms– with blood alcohol content levels of up to .08, which is legally drunk.
“I worry about it every day,” Westchester Mayor Sam Pulia, a former police officer, told NBC 5. “I can argue that you are half-drunk,” he says of the .05 blood alcohol content limit.
“I still believe that police officers are held to a higher standard,” Pulia said, adding that he believes that no one with alcohol in their system should be driving a car or carrying a gun.
“I think it places the city at great risk,” retired police chief Walter Zalisko added. “Zero would be the wise choice, that you can’t have any alcohol.”
April Padalik, Pulia’s police chief in Westchester, told NBC 5 that she won’t let officers who’ve been drinking get behind the wheel of a squad car even if their union contract allows them to have elevated levels of impairment without facing disciplinary action.
Paul Volpe, the village manager of Elmwood Park, also said that he would not allow impaired officers to patrol the streets, despite the fact that their contracts allow them to work while legally drunk.
“If those test results come in [at] anything greater than zero, we are not going to put that officer on the street,” Volpe told NBC 5. “We have a zero-tolerance policy.”
In the city of Chicago, this issue recently made headlines when Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office announced a proposed settlement of $4.1 million to be paid to the family of Flint Farmer, an unarmed man who was fatally shot by Officer Gildardo Sierra, who admitted to drinking “multiple” beers before reporting to work the night he killed Farmer.
Tagged April Padalik, better government association, drunk cops, Elmwood Park police .08 BAC, Flint Farmer, Gildardo Sierra, half-drunk cops, Oak Park police .08 BAC, police unions, rahm emanuel, Sam Pulia, Walter Zalisko