12/07/2007

Chicago wants to drug test any officers involved in shootings

By Fran Spielman
The Chicago Sun-Times
Related: NYPD may change officer involved shooting policies

CHICAGO Under fire for the way police shootings are investigated, the Daley administration wants the right to test Chicago Police officers who discharge their weapons on duty or off for alcohol and drugs.

In the wake of barroom brawls involving off-duty officers, City Hall is also proposing random testing for alcohol as well as drugs; stepped-up drug testing that uses hair samples instead of just urine; testing for Ecstasy and steroids, and drug and alcohol testing of officers in specialized units.

In addition, the city wants to retain disciplinary records related to sustained complaints for the "duration of an officer's employment" and require officers under investigation to make "electronically recorded statements" to the Internal Affairs Division and the Independent Police Review Authority.

A recent Sun-Times investigation into police shootings found that detectives were sometimes not eager to administer a Breathalyzer to a fellow cop.

The controversial proposals to strengthen the city's hand in disciplining wayward officers were made by Mayor Daley's negotiating team during contract talks with the Fraternal Order of Police. They follow last week's appointment of career FBI agent Jody Weis to become the first outsider in nearly 50 years to serve as Chicago Police superintendent.

FOP President Mark Donahue declined to comment on the city's proposals, posted on the union's Web site.

Police Committee Chairman Isaac Carothers (29th) said the changes are overdue.

"If you drive a truck if a garbage man has an accident right away he's taken for a test. If you're a police officer, you carry a gun and you shoot somebody, why should we not ensure that person is not impaired? It's not the case now. It's subject to the call of the street deputy on the scene if he feels it's necessary," Carothers said.

Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) is an attorney who has represented LaFonso Rollins, who spent 11 years in prison for rape only to be exonerated by DNA testing in 2004.

Fioretti was all for mandatory testing of officers involved in shootings, but less enthusiastic about random alcohol testing.

"It's a red herring being thrown out to critics of the Police Department. Let's not throw out red herrings that the city knows is going to fail. Let's do realistic things. Let's do job training on alcoholism. Let's do Breathalyzers at each and every shooting. Let's do videotaping of roundtables," he said.

Attorneys representing victims of alleged police brutality have long complained that the police contract is made to shield abusive officers. The argument was aired most recently during debate over the mayor's plan to sever the Office of Professional Standards from the Police Department and make it a separate city department with subpoena power and a chief administrator who reports directly to the mayor.

Copyright 2007 Chicago Sun-Times

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