Officers & alcohol: Can police be on the job after drinking?

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Did you know that some Ohio police officers are allowed to work after drinking?

In fact, OSP officers can't be disciplined for having a blood alcohol level below .04.

"You can be pretty much off your game at a .04," explains Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg.

A .04 is no problem for some law enforcement agencies, but the union officials say that doesn't mean drinking on duty is acceptable. It's just the level that helps safeguard officers who were unexpectedly called out to duty.

Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims says they have a zero tolerance policy.

"Our policy goes on to say that if you're in an on call status, that you're not to consume alcohol for that chance that you would be coming into work," explains Sims.

Clermont County Sheriff A.J. Rodenberg says they don't have a set limit on blood alcohol content. But he says it's clearly understood that alcohol shouldn't affect their work.

"There's no way a person on their own, deputy or otherwise, could be at home drinking and all of a sudden say 'whoops, I've just gone over a .04, now I can't go on duty,'" explains Rodenberg.

Many agencies do test officers after a major incident including an officer involved shooting or car accident, but Rodenberg and Sims stress they'll do the same even if there's any suspicion of drinking.

"If someone is suspected to be under the influence on duty, there are provisions that allow us to test those people," says Rodenberg.

"If he did come in and we did smell alcohol in him or on him or her, then we certainly don't want that so he would likely be taken home or sent home," adds Sims.

Both sheriffs stress it's up to the individual to make the right decision.

"We leave it up to them to decide, okay I've had too much I shouldn't be driving and if that's their call, they won't be disciplined for that or counseled for that," says Rodenberg.

Both of the sheriffs stress the importance of enforcing these policies because they deal with life and death situations all the time.

Often times they'll have to use their gun, and the slightest change in their mindset could be costly.

Officials say such language involving blood alcohol content on the job has been in law enforcement contracts for years, and it's up to each department to decide how to handle it.

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