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Judge rules NYPD cops must submit to sobriety tests following shootings

AUTODIDACT 17 | 1/16/2014, 3:50 p.m.
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In a decision that some analysts say should put pressure on holding cops accountable for shooting civilians in the streets of New York, Supreme Court Justice Paul Wooten ruled that members of the NYPD must undergo a breathalyzer test immediately following certain shooting incidents, according to a statement released on Jan. 2.

In the disposition, Wooten wrote, “The New York City police commissioner has full authority to institute and impose a new policy requiring all police personnel to automatically undergo blood alcohol testing in all cases where police personnel discharge a weapon that results in injury or death.”

He argued that the policy will help “maintain discipline and serves to investigate accusations of malfeasance as a matter of public policy and safety.” He also noted that a similar policy is in place for city EMS workers.

The Manhattan judge also tossed out a lawsuit by NYPD unions complaining that the mandatory breathalyzer tests for cops who discharge their guns violated collective bargaining agreements. The unions have been trying hard for the past few years to overturn this regulation.

The policy was initially adopted several years ago, in 2008, sparked by the Nov. 25, 2006, NYPD murder of Sean Bell, an unarmed 23-year-old Black man who was to be wed later that day.

During trial, one of the cops responsible admitted that he had “a permissible amount of alcohol” prior to the shooting while he was undercover and casing out the club where Bell’s bachelor party was held, but no breathalyzer test was conducted immediately following Bell’s murder.

The Sergeants Benevolent and Patrolmen’s Benevolent associations filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the regulation in federal court, but it was overturned.

The judge rejected arguments by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the Sergeants Benevolent Association that the issue of mandatory tests should be dealt with in collective bargaining.

The unions were challenging a Board of Collective Bargaining decision that said the police commissioner can order such tests because they relate to disciplinary matters and criminal investigations.

The city says it backs the judge’s decision. “We are pleased that the state court, along with other recent courts, has recognized the Police Department’s right to test an officer’s sobriety when he or she is involved in a shooting incident,” city attorney Eric Eichenholtz said in a statement today.

The unions plan to appeal, their lawyer said, calling the tests “a very important issue.”