Illinois lawmakers push for a zero-tolerance alcohol policy for on-duty police officers
MARION, Ill. - You would not think you would have to wonder if the police officer you saw in your neighborhood was under the influence, but in Illinois there is no state law that says a police officer cannot come into work if they have been drinking.
Officers in Decatur, Illinois can come to work with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of up to .08, according to their contract, and some other cities have similar rules.
Right now, it is up to individual departments to decide if being buzzed on the job is against the rules, but Illinois lawmakers are pushing for a zero-tolerance policy.
The Assistant Chief at the Marion Police Department is disgusted that this is not a law already.
"There is no reason at all that we should not have our full wits about us. And if you have any alcohol in your system, whether you have full wits or not, is debatable," said Daniel Byrne.
Byrne says that if an officer at the Marion Police Department walked in with even a trace of alcohol on their breath, the would be asked to leave.
But just a block down the road at the Sheriff's Department, the rules change dramatically.
"An officer can show up to work with alcohol in his system as long as it's not over .03," said Williamson County Sheriff Eddie Vick.
Not only that, but Vick says the first time an officer is caught with a BAC above .03, there is no disciplinary action taken, other than some routine counseling.
Sheriff Vick says he is embarrassed that the policy against alcohol is so liberal.
"There's just no room for it. We're put in too many situations where we have to make life and death decisions," said Vick.
Byrne says the lack of a state law opens the doors to lawsuits and loads of liability, but he says there is also a moral standard that officers should adhere to.
"If you have a police officer come up to you and you smell alcohol on his breath, your respect for that police officer and his department is going to go way down," said Byrne.
Byrne says this law should pass to remind citizens that officers are not above the law.
The proposed legislation includes an exception.
If an undercover officer needs to drink to "look the part" in order to do his or her job, then they can have a BAC of up to .02.