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Sobering News For Local Police?

Following BGA/NBC report on police departments that allow cops to come to work buzzed, Illinois secretary of state proposes “zero tolerance” legislation.

By Patrick Rehkamp/BGA, with NBC 5

February 22, 2013 11:27 PM

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is pushing for a hard line on the hard stuff.

Prompted by a Better Government Association/NBC 5 news story that highlighted how some Chicago-area police departments allow on-duty officers to have alcohol in their system, White said Friday he is proposing state legislation requiring "zero tolerance" alcohol policies for public-safety employees.

"The officers are not safe, the taxpayers are not safe," White told the BGA. "I think this legislation should have been introduced a long time ago."

White’s taxpayer-supported office issues driver licenses and license plates, and he has long been involved in anti-drunken driving efforts.

The BGA/NBC report showed how some police agencies promote zero tolerance already, but other departments allow their cops to have alcohol in their bloodstream while at work. Some, such as Chicago, permit a blood-alcohol level of 0.02. Others, including Westchester, allow up to 0.05. Oak Park and Elmwood Park technically allow up to 0.079, although officials in those communities have said they’d seek to punish officers with any amount of booze in their system.

It’s illegal to drive at 0.08 or above in Illinois.

To put blood-alcohol numbers into perspective, the average 200-pound person hits 0.08 after consuming five alcoholic drinks (with each drink generally equating to a shot of hard liquor, three ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer) in the first hour of drinking.

White indicated that his plans are to include police officers in his legislation for now, although other first responders – such as firefighters – might also be covered. Details are still being worked out, he said, although he hopes to have a bill introduced in the General Assembly’s spring session.

This story was written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Patrick Rehkamp, with NBC 5’s Phil Rogers. They can be reached at (312) 386-9201 or prehkamp@bettergov.org. Rehkamp’s Twitter handle is @patrickrehkamp.

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