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Is Mixing Police Work and Alcohol Dangerous?

Is Mixing Police Work and Alcohol Dangerous?

The Hartford Courant

May 09, 2011

When Jim Strillacci first wore the badge of a West Hartford police officer as a rookie in the ’70s, he was quickly pulled into a ritual of capping off most every shift with a trip to the closest source of booze.

“When I came on the job 35 years ago, an American Legion post was right behind the police station,” Strillacci said. "It was almost one of those rites of passage, where after work, you’d go down the hill and you’d have a couple brews with your fellow officers.

“And sometimes you’d end up being there until closing.”

Now, decades later, that tradition has waned, Strillacci said, as both the public and the profession are less inclined to wink at excessive drinking by officers.

But while the stereotype of the hard-drinking cop may be fading, the mix of police work and alcohol remains a dangerous combination. And after an exceptional string of tragedies and embarrassments in Connecticut, some wonder if agencies are doing all they can to deal with officers who get lost in the bottle.

“To put it bluntly: Yeah, it’s a problem,” said John Violanti, a former New York state trooper who now studies alcohol use by police as an assistant professor at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

“It’s long been recognized that alcohol problems in police work are prevalent,” Violanti said. “Generally, it’s social: it’s done only with other police officers and there’s no repercussions. But then you get the guy who can’t control it anymore, and that’s when the trouble starts.”

In Connecticut, there has been plenty of trouble the past year:

— Bristol police Officer Robert Mosback acknowledged drinking at a neighborhood party before going on duty June 26. He later crashed his cruiser into a utility pole while driving at twice the speed limit; court records indicate his blood-alcohol level was over the legal limit at 0.13 percent. He was charged with driving under the influence.

— Windsor Locks police Officer Michael Koistinen allegedly spent hours drinking the night of Oct. 29 when his car struck and killed a teenager riding a bicycle. He faces manslaughter charges. The head of a regional accident-reconstruction team who was called to the scene reportedly arrived drunk and was sent home, sources have said.

— State Police Lt. Timothy Kradas crashed into a box truck on I-84 while on duty Feb. 2. Investigators reportedly found empty beer cans and a mix of alcohol and tomato juice in his cruiser and charged him with driving under the influence.

— And early last Saturday morning, New Britain police Capt. Matthew Tuttle, reportedly after attending a party with other officers, lost control of his car and struck a disabled vehicle and its driver before fleeing the scene and driving home. He was charged with drunken driving and evading responsibility, and less than 12 hours later, fatally shot himself in the head in his Middletown apartment.

While high-profile cases make headlines, it is hard to quantify just how common alcohol abuse is inside the nation’s police departments.

  • Robocop_max50


    over 3 years ago


    If an individual drinks and one parent is an alcoholic, the odds of being an alcoholic is 36 percent. If two parents; the odds increase to 67 percent. Bad odds for thoes genitically inclined. With those odds of career and social demise; only those with a drinking problem would continue to drink.
    Simple question Army psyciatry tought me- Did you ever drink a six pack; that is the diagnosis of alcohol (substance) abuse. Soloution dont drink ever again and if that dosent work. AA is better than loss of career, hospitals or prisons.

  • 0524001248_0001_0001_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I hope each and every LEO would consider the risk we take every time we get into a patrol unit. As far drinking before shift, Definitly a NO NO. As far as end of a twelve hour shift, I would hope sleep would be a priority. Nothing wrong with an occasional beer, lets off steam. Nothing wrong with a cook out with the boys and letting loose as long as the wife drives. COMMON SENSE. And if there is any Drinking and Driving, then we bring shame upon ourselves no matter if we get caught or not. We are held to a higher standard. If we see a brother having a problem and he or she has turned to the bottle, its our responsibilty to help (not cover). I need to know my partner isn't hung over when I need backup. If the job is so stressful that a bottle is the only thing that can help, then GET OUT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT. Its sad that we have to be tested for drugs and alcohol when we have a mishap on the job. There sould be a trust between each other knowing that we are good to go. But, I guess there will always be a bad apple in the bunch which ruins it for everybody. We are blessed to be LEO's and have a job, lets keep that way.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago

    Choir practice, is not singing I'm church or a activity in the Dept. after your shift. It going out after your watch is over. I don't drink but I know a few LEOs that do as a way to relax. Do they have a problem that's not my place to say. I'm glad there is a study being done. I'm sure it should have been done a lot sooner too.


  • Esu_patch_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I can remember when I first got on the job, some guys would head right for the nearest bodega and grab a 6 pack to start patrol. Not everyone but a few. I thought it was just the way things were done. Probably every precinct had some version of it just like every precinct had the cop bar they went into after work. The 4 x 12 shift became known as 4 x 4s. But that was then , now, anyone involved in a shooting gets a breathalyzer test whether on or off duty.

  • 20140718_195833-1_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Mmmmm, Is mixing police work and alcohol dangerous? Give me a minute to think this though...........YES! YES! YES! I think everyone in here has given excellent and obvious opinions. Glad this is being addressed.

  • Vpsomourningband_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Oh duh, to the title of the article! Several years ago it was pick on the medical profession. All the rage was news stories of doctors/nurses etc. abusing narcotics. Now it's the LEOs turn. There is a problem in this nation with drug and alcohol abuse, period. When alcohol is involved, whether a LEO or not, common sense goes out the window. We also know that intervention does not work unless the person is receptive to getting help. Been there, done that on the intervention end with friends. Fail X 2. Agreed, we are held to a higher standard, but this makes us no less human than any other group.

  • John_groh_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Bump Robo on this as well. I too am old school and remember those days well. The last day of an evening shift, getting of at 2 am. Going to the rear lot of the PD, taking off our shirts and locking up the gunbelts. Breaking out the beer and booze. Like Robo says, it was WRONG then and is still wrong. But it was what everyone did. Times change and in this case I think they have changed for the better. Officers now no longer follow that old tradition. That is not to say that some don't party or go to clubs and they are the ones that end up in the jackpot because of their drinking habits. Like GlockArmorer says, if you go out, watch how much you drink, take care of each other and don't be stupid about it.

  • Img_0103_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Huge Bump..!! GlockArmorer220 and Robocop33...

  • Img_0103_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Well said..!! Andrea312...Well Said indeed Mam..

  • Moi_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I grew up with this. My father was a cop in the 70s,80s, and up to 92. This kind of behavior can rip a family apart! It did mine, and eventually cost my father his life. I personally believe that back then they didn't do enough to help with this. In this day and age, there should be no excuses. Every service out there should be available at any time for an officer. Intervene if necessary, show support and compassion. Never ignore a problem.

    Bump Robo

  • Bayou_032_max50


    over 3 years ago


    bump Robocop33

  • Add_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Bump robocop33.

  • 1979_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Bump Alexy

  • 1979_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I have seen many a good Officer end up becoming an alcoholic and ruining his career and health. I am Old School from back in the 70's and there were the Occasional "Choir Practice" after work, usually at the end of the monthly shift when it was time to change, somewhere close. There were other times that is was called for because of a really tough or exciting or dangerous shift had occurred and we needed to talk to each other to wind down and let the adrenaline settle. Seldom did anyone become even more than tipsy but it did happen. It was WRONG! We thought we were being so careful and making sure that anyone we thought had too much had a ride home with someone else. The truth of the matter is that with the BAC at .10% at the time, still a number of us would have failed the test. I believe that the occasional squad or platoon get-together is a good thing, including wives and girlfriends for something like a cook-out. Police Officer need to stay completely out of bars or nightclubs. We must also watch our brothers and sisters to see how much they consume and how often etc. We know the symptoms. We just need to protect each other and help when it is necessary.

  • Cert_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago


    What is it wityh these articles that bash LEO's on this website! The bottom line is "COMMON SENSE!!!"

    Common sense tells us that drinking before and during work is WRONG!!! It doesn't matter if you LE or have some other career. However, the occasional drink after shift is perfectly acceptable!!! If we notice our brothers and sisters indulging a little too much in the drink, we should step in to see if they are having any problems and get them the help that they need.

    I will say this though, and I hope all of my Brothers and Sisters share in this; If I go out for a drink after work with my shift, I do so out of uniform and with my firearm secured.

    My thoughts!!!! Stay safe!

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