8/6/2007Washington: Cops Get Preferential Treatment for DUI Arrest
Washington state police officers often get a slap on the wrist -- if punished at all -- for drunk driving.
Police officers in Washington state who are caught driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) are given special treatment and lighter punishment when caught by fellow officers. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper pieced together records concerning 63 of the 92 police DUI arrests over the past seven years.
The investigation found that five officers who had failed blood alcohol tests escaped prosecution completely. Another six kept their driving licenses because their colleagues waited until the fifty-day deadline to submit the required paperwork to the state licensing department had expired. Drunk officers caused 14 crashes, four of which involved patrol cars.
Seattle Police Officer Kevin Williams, for example, rolled his car on Interstate 5 in 2005. Williams paid for his crime by losing five vacation days. Tacoma Police Officer Gurdial Garcha rammed a telephone pole in his GMC van with a blood alcohol level shown to be more than five times the limit (see photo). Garcha paid with a two-day suspension and was docked two vacation days. Seattle Detective Maria "Susan" DiTusa crashed a department-owned Ford Taurus into the wall of a tunnel. She blew .137 on a breath test and refused a blood test. She lost five vacation days.
An ordinary citizen refusing a breath test has a 16 in 17 chance of losing his license to drive. Only one in four police officers faced the same punishment. A King County sheriff's detective was caught driving drunk in a police car. He served a one-day suspension from his job. He was not disciplined for reportedly asking for special treatment from the Washington State Patrol trooper who arrested him.
In another case, a driver with a blood alcohol reading of 0.10 ran into a police officer with a reading of between 0.12 and 0.15. The police officer was not prosecuted, but the driver was. A few state law enforcement agencies did impose stiffer sentences on police caught driving drunk.
"If it was sustained they were drunk, and they were driving a patrol car, they are fired," Benton County Sheriff Larry Taylor told the Post-Intelligencer. "That tears at your credibility, of the entire department."