Following the arrest of seven Los Angeles police officers on suspicion of drunk driving in recent days, LAPD officials are warning cops against making the same mistake.
In a department-wide bulletin, LAPD leadership said that half of those arrested on suspicion of drink-driving had blood-alcohol levels more than twice the legal limit and that several of the incidents resulted in accidental injuries.
“Unfortunately, the recent arrests come in addition to the many other alcohol- and drug-related incidents in which our department staff have been involved throughout the year,” said the LAPD’s Professional Standards Bureau bulletin, first reported by KNBC-TV Channel 4 would. “These alcohol-related arrests are a significant and sudden increase and represent an alarming trend as the end-of-year celebrations begin.”
Alcohol abuse is an ongoing problem in the LAPD, and many officers are investigated each year for drunk driving or other alcohol-related incidents.
The issue has come under scrutiny in the past, when members of the police commission overseeing the department raised concerns about what they saw as the department’s lenient handling of such cases.
Under the previous boss, Charlie Beck, the department tried a new tact that showed leniency for an officer’s first offense but was followed by a lengthy suspension or even termination after a second incident. At the time, Beck said this progressive approach to disciplining was an improvement over the traditional system, which allowed officers with multiple alcohol-related incidents to stay on the job and imposed progressively more severe penalties.
The latest drunk driving warning comes amid an ongoing debate over whether the department should tighten its rules on drinking. The commission secretly voted this month on a proposed policy change that would lower the acceptable blood alcohol level for an off-duty armed officer to 0.04% in some situations. The result of the vote, which took place after members of the commission consulted with officials from the union representing LAPD’s junior civil servants, was not made public.
The commission revisited the issue of off-duty drinking in response to a 2021 report by The Times, which noted that despite several cases in recent years involving officers who were off-duty, the department was still investigating and armed, allegedly causing trouble, breaking the law and being armed had not developed clear policies had shot people after drinking.
Another incident was highlighted in a report by the department’s independent inspector general. In it, an off-duty LAPD officer allegedly fired his gun and nearly punched a police officer from another agency after drinking 15 to 20 beers. The officer, who was not identified in the report, later drove his car into his garage, according to the report.
Despite the “potentially fatal misconduct,” a disciplinary committee ruled against the officer’s dismissal, instead demanding a 65-day suspension without pay and a demotion in rank, the report said. An LAPD captain testified on the officer’s behalf and told the board that despite the officer’s alcohol abuse, the officer would continue to be an asset to the department.
Another officer withdrew before the department could discipline him for showing up to a protest with an open bottle of alcohol, wearing a Proud Boys T-shirt and “unnecessarily causing a disturbance,” according to a summary of the LAPD’s disciplinary decisions. After encountering a “hostile crowd” of protesters, the former sergeant identified himself as an LAPD officer in order to “receive preferential treatment,” the summary revealed.
The policy of the county’s other major law enforcement agency, the LA County Sheriff’s Department, states that off-duty armed deputies “may not consume intoxicating substances to the point where the employee is unable or does not exercise reasonable care and /or control of the firearm.”
Under the sheriff’s guideline, deputies with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or greater are unable to “exercise reasonable care,” but deputies above that limit can refute claims that they violated the guideline by trying to demonstrate that they acted sensibly.
Times editors Richard Winton and Kevin Rector contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-21/lapd-tells-officers-to-celebrate-responsibly-after-seven-are-arrested-in-dui-cases LAPD tells officers to celebrate responsibly after 7 DUI arrests