At least 35 members of Milwaukee’s police force have been disciplined after being arrested for driving drunk off-duty since they were hired, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found. Wisconsin is the only state in which first-offense drunken driving is usually a traffic violation rather than a crime. Numerous attempts to change that in the legislature have never gotten off the ground in a state where so many people drink socially.
Even so, one drunken-driving conviction is enough to get someone fired from Milwaukee’s largest cab company. A second offense – which rises to the level of a misdemeanor – results in a lifetime ban from the commercial driver’s license needed to work as a truck driver. Milwaukee cops caught drunk behind the wheel continue to be responsible for stopping drunken drivers and enforcing other laws, even if they’ve been convicted more than once. That’s not the case in many departments around the U.S. It tells the community the police don’t take drunken driving seriously, advocates say. “It puts people’s lives and livelihoods at risk,” said John Vose of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “When someone in law enforcement drives drunk, that just makes it all the more difficult for us to send the message that drinking and driving is wrong.”