NYC Breathalyzer Plan Highlights Undercover Officer Drinking


The New York Police Department’s plan to order Breathalyzer sobriety tests for any officer involved in a shooting is an unprecedented step that underscores the complexities of undercover work, says the Associated Press. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the tests were intended to help “make undercover operations the safest possible for police and public alike.” Union officials have called the measure excessive, and questioned the logic of both allowing the NYPD’s 200 undercover officers to drink on the job while subjecting them to testing common to drunken drivers. “In essence, the message is that as an undercover you should drink to further an investigation, but once you step outside of that role and take police action, we’re going to punish you,” said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association.

Regular officers are prohibited from drinking on duty, and the entire force is subject to random drug testing. Undercovers often operate in settings where it’s tough to avoid consuming at least some alcohol. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration, while requiring agents to get advance clearance from their supervisors if they expect to drink, set no specific limits. That leaves the agents mostly free to determine how much drinking is necessary to maintain their cover and keep out of danger. FBI agent Joe Pistone said, “It’s a false perception that you have to sit in a bar and drink to enhance your credibility. No bad guy cares.”


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