10/04/2007

NYPD officers in shootouts take sobriety tests

The Associated Press

NEW YORK An alleyway shootout Wednesday between police detectives and a gunman could become a test case for a new policy by the New York Police Department to measure the blood-alcohol levels of officers involved in shootings.

Three detectives, including two who suffered non-life-threatening injuries, were required to take sobriety tests shortly after the shootout – the first use of a policy stemming from the police killing of an unarmed man last year on his wedding day.

Police officials said the testing conducted by the Internal Affairs Bureau went routinely and no alcohol was detected.

The NYPD "views this as a reasonable measure," department spokesman Paul Browne said.

But union officials later renewed their objection to the rule, calling it excessive and a possible violation of labor bargaining practices.

"This is a perfect example of members of the service returning fire when fired upon … and yet they are being treated as if their actions were reckless," said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, said he would move to challenge the policy in federal court.

The police department officially notified the rank-and-file on Sunday that it would administer Breathalyzer tests like those used in drunken-driving stops for any officers who kill or wound someone. The rule is meant "to ensure the highest levels of integrity at the scene of firearms discharges," a written order said.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had announced in June that he would adopt the breath-test measure based on recommendations made by police officials assigned to study the NYPD’s undercover operations amid community outrage over the shooting of Sean Bell.

Bell, 23, was killed and two of his friends were seriously wounded in a 50-bullet barrage after his bachelor party at a Queens topless bar.

The police shooters were part of an undercover assignment at the club that allowed them to drink alcohol to blend in with the crowd. They said they believed Bell and his friends were retrieving a gun from his car to settle a dispute, although no gun was found.

Three officers face criminal charges at a trial expected later this year.

The shootout on Wednesday occurred at about 5:30 a.m. at a ramshackle second-story apartment where members of a warrants squad went to arrest a man wanted in the nonfatal shooting of two men in July.

When a woman answered the door, the man slipped into a back room, removed a window air conditioner and jumped out. He landed in the alley, where the detectives were waiting as backup.

Police said the man pulled a semiautomatic pistol and fired six times. The three detectives responded with 13 shots, including one that took off part of the man’s finger and knocked the gun out of his hand.

Three pit bulls were removed from the apartment by animal control workers.

Detectives Daniel Rivera, who was grazed on the forehead, and William Gonzalez, who suffered a leg injury, were in stable condition, police said. Both were released from St. Barnabas Hospital Wednesday afternoon.

The suspect, Jermaine Taylor, 20, was taken to Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx.

Statement by PBA president Patrick Lynch:

“The PBA is working with the other police unions to challenge this unnecessary and excessive policy. This is a perfect example of members of the service returning fire when fired upon, which policy clearly allows, and yet, they are being treated as if their actions were reckless. Aside from the fact that we believe that this policy is the subject of bargaining, there is absolutely no reason to submit these courageous detectives to such a test because they were working within the parameters of policy and within the scope of their job. They should be receiving praise and commendations not alcohol testing.

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