New York 1 News

May 9, 2002

NYPD's Zero-Tolerance Alcohol Policy Goes Into Effect Today


It's been a week since former police officer Joseph Gray was found guilty of getting behind the wheel drunk and mowing down four people on his way to work at a Brooklyn precinct. Now, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is adopting a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to cops and alcohol.

Effective Friday, police officers are required to be fit for duty at all times, including when they're not working.

The order reads in part: “Any uniformed member of the service who causes serious physical injury to another person while operating a motor vehicle and is determined to be unfit for duty due to the consumption of alcohol will be terminated from the NYPD.”

Up until now, the strongest mandatory punishment was suspension until the officer's case was reviewed.

The policy also says an officer who is off-duty may be fired if they are behind the wheel in an alcohol-related incident where someone is hurt, and it is determined that they would have been unfit for duty.

"We want to make a clear, unequivocal statement that if, in fact, you cause physical injury as a result of being intoxicated or unfit for duty and driving a vehicle then you are going to be terminated," Kelly said.

Kelly said he consulted with police unions before drafting the order but the PBA told NY1 that it's still concerned officers might not get due process under the law as citizens would.

Kelly is urging any officer who has concerns about alcohol, or who knows of cops with drinking problems, to call a confidential counseling service called P.O.P.P.A.

“I don't think the Department has a big problem,” Kelly said. “But police officers carry guns. They’re required to be fit for duty at all times.”

The police commissioner's new alcohol policy comes two weeks before Gray is to be sentenced for manslaughter and while two investigations are moving forward into the case – one by the Brooklyn District Attorney's office and another by the NYPD.

At issue is whether other cops tried to hinder the prosecution and cover up Gray's all-day drinking binge. At the trial, one retired officer testified that a PBA representative tried to suggest which sobriety tests Gray could "beat."

PBA President Patrick Lynch said the union was only trying to get Gray proper legal protection under the law.

“Our policy is to get that police officer that’s accused an attorney and be advised by their attorney,” Lynch said. “This, I am told, may well be under investigation. I believe that investigation will go forward and prove that the PBA acted appropriately.”

Kelly wouldn't comment on the internal investigation or speculate on whether other police officers face disciplinary action in connection with Gray's case.

Gray faces up to 15 years behind bars when he is sentenced later this month.

--Andrew Siff