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03-25-06, 03:50 PM #1
25 St. Paul police officers busted for drinking at the police station after work
Twenty-five St. Paul police officers have admitted drinking alcohol at a station after their shifts ended, prompting investigators to recommend they be reprimanded, a police spokesman said Thursday.
Most of the officers told investigators they drank at the Eastern District station at least twice since January 2005. The department bars drinking on police property.
Chief John Harrington ordered an internal investigation in February after a sergeant complained. The investigation is over, but discipline has not been handed out, police spokesman Pete Crum said. Harrington will decide how to discipline the officers.
"The department takes these sorts of complaints very seriously, as can be seen in this case, where the chief initiated this internal investigation," Crum said. "A thorough investigation has been completed, and we are in the process of imposing discipline."
St. Paul Police Federation President Dave Titus said there is "definitely not a widespread problem" with officers drinking at stations.
"These cops were definitely not breaking policy while they were on the clock," said the police union chief. "The department and the federation would never condone that activity."
The investigation began after a sergeant reported that an officer under his supervision had asked whether officers could carry on "a tradition of drinking" in the briefing room of the FORCE unit, located at the Eastern District station at 722 Payne Ave., Crum said.
The FORCE unit, which stands for Focusing Our Resources on Community Empowerment, aims to prevent crime by targeting street-level narcotics and focusing on properties with repeat police calls.
The investigation concluded that all 25 officers, who usually finish their shifts between 1 and 4 a.m., were off duty when the drinking occurred, Crum said. Each reported having one to three beers or other alcoholic drinks and most said they had drunk on police property at least twice since Jan. 1, 2005, he said.
Investigators interviewed 34 officers — 30 current and past members of the FORCE unit since Jan. 1, 2005, and four other officers.
The four others, who are assigned to the Eastern District but are not members of the FORCE unit, came forward when they heard about the investigation to say they also had drunk in the unit's briefing room, Crum said.
Complaints against 25 of the 34 officers, including two sergeants, were sustained.
"This is a policy violation," Crum said. "It is not a legal violation."
Officers are prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages into police buildings, "except in the performance of police duties," which could include alcohol that needs to be secured as evidence, Crum said.
"To my knowledge, all the members involved were honest and straightforward, and we'll see what the administration does with it from here," Titus said.
Harrington was out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment.
The department is not releasing the 25 officers' names until discipline is imposed, Crum said.
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