Alcoholism in Police officers
Essay title: Alcoholism in Police officers
There are many social problems today in America. They can be minor problems, or they can be major problems, but they are still problems that are of concern and can be adjusted. These social problems may seem different in the eyes of other individuals, what may seem major to one could seem like nothing to another, but they are still problems. One that interests me and I feel is of major concern happens to be alcohol abuse in police officers.
Alcoholism itself is a major social problem, but when mixed with policing it may be more dangerous than we think. It all starts with the feeling of being stressed out on the job. Police feel that they have too much to deal with on the job, which I feel is true. In the field of law enforcement, officers tend to get involved in some intense situations and see some horrific tragedies. After work, they feel that a way to relive this stress is to stop at a bar on the way home “pound” a couple of beers. Whether it is beer or hard liquor, it may just seem like a little thing to do after work, but it can become an addicting routine.
Recently an article appeared in the South Bend Tribune discussing three local police officers who had been cited on alcohol related charges in the town of South Bend, Indiana. The local police therapist, Hal Brown, encounters alcohol related issues often when counseling officers and their spouses. For example, a wife will complain that her husband will often stop at a bar before coming home so that he could “take the edge off” from a rough day on the job. (Gallegos) Brown observes that “a significant difference exists between downing a couple of beers after work and crossing over to excessive drinking” which results in marital difficulties. After a while of this same routine, this excessive drinking creates a communication barrier between husband and wife diminishing the strength of the relationship. Many police officers cross the line between relieving themselves of work related stress and creating a more stressful environment in their home.
Several examples of drinking problems occurred in South Bend, Indiana. Officer Joseph A. Muszer of South Bend Police Department was found off-duty, outside his squad car where he was being held for suspicion of driving under the influence. After failing a field sobriety test he was taken to Saint Joseph Count Jail where blood-alcohol level test had come to show that was at 0.17 percent which was more than double the legal limit in the state of Indiana. Muszers illustration follows the cases of detective bureau chief Eugene Kyle and detective Ron Nowicki, who were accused of operating vehicles while intoxicated back in December of 2005. One officer, Lieutenant Scott Ruszkowski, has been with the South Bend Police Department for seventeen years and claims there continues to be a fair amount of fellow officers with drinking issues.
Another town where similar incidences occurred was in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Seven officers were charged for alcohol related offences within a year after the death of Sergeant Gerald Vick, who was killed in the line of duty. There have also been twenty-five officers who have been reprimanded not to long ago for drinking in the headquarters building in 2005 while off duty. In May of this year a Minnesota state trooper resigned after his second DUI. (Adams & Walsh 1)
The general public may be shocked by these incidents but this may be a result of their views of police officers. People often tend to dehumanize officers like they are immune to the problems that everyday citizens unfortunately face. Many do not realize that members of the police force also have to deal with ordinary day-to-day dilemmas along with on-the-job pressure. This combination of types of stress in the workplace and home cause many develop anxiety from being around constant tragedies and death. Although a big contributing stress factor for police comes from administrative issues, studies show that about twenty percent of officers in America suffer from post traumatic stress disorder from dealing with issues on the job daily many of us would not even think to encounter in the workplace. Alcoholism simply seems an easy relief to these otherwise uncommon pressures.
There is no truly definite number to the amount of officers suffering from alcoholism. This is due to some officers unaware they have a problem and yet others who are afraid of coming out about this condition for fear of reprimand or finding themselves suffering from the stigmas attached to alcoholism. Unfortunately, there is more definite numbers in relation to suicide. There are some conclusive studies that alcoholism may be a large contributing factor to the suicide rate in the force. In 2004, there were 450 documented police suicides nationwide. Ninety-five percent of those were alcohol-related. (Gallegos) Excessive drinking leads officers more often than not down the path of domestic