Cops In Chicago ‘Burbs Allowed To Be Half-Drunk On The Job

Published: February 16, 2013

Cops In Chicago ‘Burbs Allowed To Be Half-Drunk On The Job, Drinking on the job is generally frowned upon, unless you’re lucky enough to work at a brewery. Or as a cop in the Chicago suburbs. That’s right, in several suburban Chicago hamlets, the boys (and girls) in blue are allowed to be nearly-sauced on the clock, thanks to provisions in police union contracts that prevent disciplinary action against cops who are literally half-drunk.

In those cities, cops are allowed to have a blood alcohol level of .05 before they can be punished. In Illinois, a blood alcohol reading of .08 is considered legally drunk. So, yeah, real comforting. By contrast, in Chicago, the city’s limit for officer drinking is .02.

Do you think your police department has a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol?

Think again.

Many suburban Chicago departments actually have clauses in their union contracts which prevent any kind of discipline for officers with substantial amounts of alcohol in their systems — even those nearing the state definition of legally drunk, an investigation by the Better Government Association and NBC Chicago reveals.

“I worry about it every day,” said Sam Pulia, the mayor of west suburban Westchester, Ill.

Pulia, himself a former Westchester police officer, tried unsuccessfully to stop ratification of his department’s union contract which only allows discipline against officers when they hit an alcohol level of .05.

“I could argue that you are half-drunk,” Pulia said. “I still believe that police officers are held to a higher standard.”

Pulia argues that no one with alcohol in their systems should be driving a squad car or carrying a gun. And he thinks it sends the wrong message to officers to set a number which could be perceived as an allowable limit.

Westchester is not alone. Other Illinois police officers in Forest Park, Glendale Heights, and South Barrington also have a limit of .05. In Elmwood Park and Oak Park, the limit is the state definition of legally drunk: .08 or higher.

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