New changes by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education will subject police officers convicted of drunk driving to more severe penalties. While Dallas police departments terminate officers who are convicted of DWI, departments in other cities have less harsh policies.
The new policy requires Texas police departments to suspend the licenses of offending officers. While these officers do not need to be fired, departments would need to find other places for them to work. However, one police chief said that there are often no available positions for such officers, explaining that it is likely the officer will eventually be fired.
Because most alcohol-related offenses are categorized as Class B misdemeanors, they will carry a mandatory suspension period of 30 days. Class A misdemeanors result in a 120-day suspension. Officers convicted of felonies also lose their licenses, as was the case before the policy changes were approved. The updates will also apparently do away with a system that allowed officers facing suspension to seek probation by arguing their case at administrative hearings. Since 2006, approximately 30 Texas police officers have been granted probation in lieu of losing their licenses.
The new policy is not without its critics. A representative for a Texas police union argued that the rules hold officers to an unfair standard. He argued that judges, attorneys and doctors are all allowed to retain their licenses, even after a DWI conviction.
The new changes show the stakes for a conviction of drunk driving charges. People are often quick to rush to judgment when police officers are arrested, but they need to remember that until proven guilty, the allegations are merely allegations.