The Police/“Citizen” Double Standard

The Arizona police had stopped a man for suspicion of Driving Under the Influence. They gave him a blood test and found evidence that he had been smoking marijuana within the last two to four weeks. Arizona’s law specifies the presence of “the metabolite” of THC. The metabolite that actually makes a user “high” is “hydroxy-THC.” There is however another metabolite, carboxy-THC, which remains much longer but is inactive. It only tells you that marijuana has been ingested at some point in the last two weeks to a month.

The state promptly charged the driver with DUI. An appeals court has now agreed that the driver is guilty.

“The legislature intended to create a ‘per se prohibition’ and a ‘flat ban on driving with any proscribed drug in one’s system… We determined that the legislative ban extends to all substances, whether capable of causing impairment or not.”

So the name of the law is not true. Even if you are not actually driving under the influence you can be prosecuted for DUI.

But if you’re a cop and show up to work half-drunk on alcohol, that’s just fine.

“A shocking new report has uncovered union contracts that allow police officers in Illinois to show up for duty while ‘half-drunk’ or up to one-percent under the state’s legal limit. Three departments in suburban Illinois permit alcohol limits of up to .05 while two others up to .079 – or one percentage below the state’s definition of being drunk – the report by the Better Government Association found. The contracts reason a glass of wine taken with dinner before an overnight shift or a shot of cough medicine or mouth wash as possible sources for the blood and alcohol levels.”

Notice the incredible contradiction here. Unlike carboxy-THC, ethanol in the bloodstream is the “active” substance in alcoholic beverages. Secondly, it only takes an hour and a half for the alcohol in a glass of wine to dissipate. Is it really too much to ask a cop not to drink for a couple of hours before duty, or to use a breath mint instead of mouthwash until his shift is over? I could see making these rules for emergencies when cops are summoned without warning. But they make no sense for regular duties.

The fact that the union gets these kinds of rules for police is itself amazing. I’ve worked on a construction site before that had drug tests of all sorts. Any minor fender bender requires an immediate drug and alcohol test—something no cop is subjected to after a shooting. These sorts of protections don’t encourage overall confidence in Illinois’ “finest.”

Since these are two different states, we can’t be sure how it will play out nationwide. But as it stands it sure looks like we have a generation of officials who apply one set of rules for “civilians, and another set of rules for police officers.” (Note: police are supposed to be civilian too!)

Of course, I can’t say this situation is inconsistent. It is only inconsistent if you think that equality before the law is the goal. But that is probably the mistake. The goal is to have two groups of people: a group of those who can be fined and turned into sources of revenue for the state, and a smaller more “elite” group of people who can collect that revenue for the state. In arranging this system, one will start to attract people who aren’t willing to let go of certain “freedoms”—like drinking alcohol right before going on duty—who will also be more effective at revenue collection. In order to have your system of revenue providers and revenue gatherers, you need different rules for the two groups.

But that is not the way America is supposed to be.