Lake County law enforcement agencies have a problem, and it’s not giving badge brothers of other departments free passes when stopped for alleged DUIs. They have a drinking problem.
News-Sun reporter Emily Coleman detailed earlier this month how some police departments allegedly look the other way when police officers are pulled over and suspected of driving under the influence. We shouldn’t be surprised, because there always has been double standards when it comes to police enforcement. But the drinking should startle us and them.
There are written, legislated, enacted and codified police-power laws for citizens, and there’s the unwritten code of laws for those who serve and protect. We saw that when law enforcement in western Lake County beat the bushes looking for suspects in the 2015 death of Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz.
His fellow officers were convinced he was murdered, and wouldn’t believe he would take his own life. Turned out he did to hide financial misdeeds, according to Lake County investigators.
That being said, cops have the distinction of seeing some of the worst behavior by some of the worst of our neighbors. For all the good they do, they bear a heavy burden, and they might have a beverage or two to relieve the strain.
That doesn’t excuse furnishing get-out-of-jail-free cards to those fellow officers they pull over. The News-Sun investigative piece pointed out Libertyville police gave a few Waukegan policemen the opportunity to call for a ride home after being stopped on suspicion of driving while drunk.
Certainly, others in Lake County departments have done the same for fellow cops. Most departments have fluid, unwritten policies when dealing with such cop stops.
Law enforcement types do a worthy tango when it comes to trying to explain why this happens — essentially saying citizens sometimes are allowed to do the same thing, leaving the actions to ticket or not to ticket for driving while impaired up to individual officers on the street.
If it were an Average Joe or Jane being caught in one of the DUI checkpoints held during holidays — for which police departments receive state and federal taxpayer-funded grants to deploy officers in order to get besotted motorists off the roads — the scenarios would be different.
Especially at, say, 3 a.m. — prime time to find intoxicated drivers on county roads — when the motorist has imbibed more than double the state’s .08 blood-alcohol level and then gotten behind the wheel.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who is running for re-election against Democrat John Idleburg, is one of the law enforcement officials who understands. “When we don’t police our own and we give passes to these people, we endanger the safety of all the other people on the road, and we lose credibility as an institution, as a profession,” the sheriff told reporter Coleman.
What he didn’t say was when off-duty cops drive while intoxicated, they also endanger themselves. Over the years, several police officers across Lake County have died following vehicle crashes involving high volumes of alcohol.
Of the incidents cited in The News-Sun story, none of the officers were referred to certified alcohol intervention programs. One of the patrolmen was required to complete an in-department “alcohol evaluation.”
Perhaps these situations are one-offs, like somebody having too much at the company Christmas party. A lone mistake is made and the driver pays for a good attorney, who usually suggests entering a rehab program with the aim to lessen the blow of losing one’s driving privileges.
But if there is a trend, departments can’t sweep it under the rug, internally protecting those who have boozing-and-driving problems by sending them home in the back of a ride-share service. It then becomes our problem.