Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr and Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo have both adopted a tough stance on DUIs. Kerr sent out a strict warning to her department after a veteran Austin firefighter lost his job after being arrested for drunk driving. In a memo to the Austin Fire Department she said it was inevitable that anyone from her department who decided to drink and drive could end up seriously injuring or killing another person. She stated that despite her best efforts, the situation wasn’t becoming any better even though drunk driving wasn’t unique to the department.
By the Numbers
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo supports her sentiments and expressed concerns about similar DUI challenges within the police department. According to a new policy of the department, officers who are found guilty of drunk driving after an internal administrative investigation will automatically lose their job. According to public disciplinary records over the past five years, eighteen employees of the Fire Department were suspended or fired for DUI AUSTIN TX related offences, which is 36 percent of around 50 disciplinary measures taken.
Of all disciplinary action taken, 22 percent were alcohol or drug related incidents and did not appear to involve DWI. On the other hand, the police department registered seven DUI related suspensions or dismissals out of 263 disciplinary measures, which is about 3 percent. Around 5 percent of disciplinary measures were related to incidents involving alcohol or drugs. According to disciplinary and jail records all but one of the firefighters and police officers disciplined in connection with DWI were arrested and charged with the offense.
The Fire Department in other cities like San Antonio, Dallas, and Texas recorded a smaller percentage of suspensions or dismissals during the same period. In Dallas, 16 percent or 18 out of 108 disciplinary measures were related to DUI while San Antonio recorded 22 of 69 suspensions or firings related to DWI.
This is alcohol at a tiny level. Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr and Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo are not too happy about their drunk troops.
The Austin Fire Department is said to take DUI related allegations very seriously while the Fire Chief says that firefighters should not expect a first time DUI offence to attract only a 10-day suspension, which has been the norm in the past. Each case will be judged on its own merits. Austin Fire Department Chief of Staff Harry Evans said there were a host of factors that affect the DUI AUSTIN TX rate within the department. An average of 4.3 DWI-related investigations has been conducted annually over the past seven years.
Police union leaders argue that every case is different and have strongly opposed the zero-tolerance DWI policy. The president of the Austin Firefighters Association reiterated that the city’s firefighters were by no means out of control when it comes to DUI and do not pose a risk to residents.
Do not Screw Up
The president said that although DUI was a serious violation that public safety employees must hold to the highest standard, the Austin Fire Chief did not consider mitigating circumstances when deciding appropriate punishment for department employees. He cited that example of 52 year old firefighter Mark Madison who was fired in July this year after a drunk driving arrest in May. Madison had worked 29 years with the department and had a clean record. The veteran firefighter plans to appeal his firing.