The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office announced earlier this week that it would officially make drunk driving a fireable offense for deputies or other department employees. The new policy, which will go into immediate effect, was institute by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri after a series of alarming incidents involving impaired officers.
Gualtieri said that there have been three cases in the last several weeks that prompted his decision. One incident occurred when a deputy crashed his car while driving the wrong way down a busy Tampa road last month. Subsequent blood tests determined that the officer was driving with a BAC level of 0.20, more than twice the legal limit in Florida.
Late last month another case involved a probationary deputy, one that had not yet officially been granted union protection. In that case, the young officer was in a car accident while trying to leave the parking lot of a popular downtown Tampa bar. Sheriff Gualtieri says he’s tired of the embarrassment and intends to crack down on any officer or other employee who drives under the influence.
The new policy that Gualtieri spelled out in an email to employees last week says that any employee of the department who is convicted of drunk driving would be fired. Period. The same punishment will be handed down to anyone who is found to be operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content greater than 0.08, regardless of whether he or she is convicted of a crime. The policy also says that any department employee who refuses to submit to a breath test will be required to submit to one by internal affairs investigators.
Though the policy is a tough one, it will not apply retroactively to those officers who have recently been involved in embarrassing drunk driving incidents. Previously, the department’s rules stated that officers or civilian employees who had no prior disciplinary records would be suspended for seven days following a drunk driving arrest.
The issue of drunk driving as a fireable offense raised questions about whether ordinary people could also face the loss of a job due to a DUI/DWI conviction. Though all situations are fact dependent, most experts agree that government employees, especially federal workers, are most at risk of being fired in the event of a drunk driving conviction. Firing is not automatic, but depending on your job a drunk driving conviction can result in the loss of security clearances and even termination.
Those who work in the private sector are less likely to be fired for drunk driving but are not immune to the possibility. The nature of the job often determines whether a person should worry about termination. For instance, if you were arrested while driving a company-owned vehicle or you drive for a living (such as commercial truck drivers), then your likelihood of being fired is much greater.
Source: Article by Stephen Thompson, published at TBO.com.