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Published: Thursday, 11/5/2009

Policing their own

The Toledo Police Department is to be commended for its open and above-board handling of two unusual incidents in which veteran officers were charged with being drunk while on duty.

On Oct. 23, a police officer with 27 years on the force was arrested by fellow officers after arriving at the scene of an accident after apparently having been drinking on the job. Eight days later, a 12-year veteran was arrested, again by fellow officers, and accused of showing up for his afternoon shift intoxicated.

Each has been charged criminally. After initially refusing to take a Breathalyzer test, each was later required to take the test as part of the an administrative investigation. Each has been suspended without pay. Each is getting help. In other words, both situations were was handled in way that protects the public, sends a message to other officers, and provides help to the officers involved.

It wasn't always this way.

Police have always worked under tremendous stress. Their job is sometimes dangerous, frequently boring, has odd and inconsistent working hours, and puts officers in frequent contact with the worst sorts of human suffering.

Yet officers are supposed to be macho and stoic. They see it all and are expected to be unaffected because otherwise they couldn't do their jobs. In reality, they're just as vulnerable as the people they protect, but machismo can turn a police officer to drink rather than to seek out a counselor. And in the past, fellow officers often looked the other way.

Not so many decades ago, alcohol abuse - abetted by that misguided sense of brotherhood - was thought to be rampant in police departments across the country. Things are better now, but some studies suggest the alcoholism rate among police officers may still be as high as 25 percent, nearly four times the rate in the general population. That's a sobering statistic.

It is praiseworthy, therefore, that in each of these cases the cops policed their own, getting the officers off the streets before something bad happened.

Whatever the outcome of their criminal and administrative cases, we trust the process will be transparent and the protection of the community and health of the officers will continue to be of primary importance.



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