Off-Duty Cops and Alcohol – A Bad Combination

Off-duty cops in New York City and around the country regularly carry guns while they are off-duty. It sounds like a respectable safety measure, based upon unassailable logic – unless, of course, you ignore the fact that police officers are human, and in some respects maybe a bit more human, than the rest of us.

What we’re referring to, of course, is that cops have most, if not all, of the defects, problems, illnesses, and other issues that affect other citizens. And with regard to certain of those problems, the rate among law enforcement personnel exceeds that of the rest of the population. The issues we’re talking about are not only divorce and suicide, but also alcoholism and drug addiction. So while I might not be too concerned if the local gendarme is having marital problems, or may want to harm himself or herself, I’m going to be very interested in whether the officer has a drug or alcohol problem.

We understand that these issues can affect the behavior of an officer while on duty also, but the likelihood that an officer will drink or drug to excess during his shift is probably a lot less than while he’s off-duty. And here are just a couple of recent stories about the effects of combining guns, cops and booze/drugs:

  • In July of last year, an armed, off-duty member of the NYPD was seen downing shots at an East Village bar. A patron attempting to notify the precinct and Internal Affairs, but was at first ignored, then told there is nothing illegal about what the off-duty cop was doing.
  • In April 2014, two off-duty NYPD cops, in separate incidents, were arrested for shooting handguns. One was charged with firing over a dozen rounds at a man in a car in Westchester County. The other fired at least once at a former boyfriend and his companion outside a strip club in Somerset County, New Jersey. The first officer was apparently so drunk he says he doesn’t remember the incident at all. The second cop was arrested for driving while intoxicated after firing her weapon.

It’s scary that these folks were armed while drunk. And the argument on the necessity of off-duty cops carrying guns – that they need to be able at all times to assist their brethren in arms and to stop criminals in their tracks – is seriously undermined by the fact that in the two recent incidents, the officers were well outside their jurisdiction when the incidents occurred.

George Vomvolakis Law Offices
275 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
(212) 682-0700