Is Three A Start, A Finish, or Just Three?

A continuing issue with the police is that they take care of their own, meaning that the rules they apply to the rest of us, often with far more force than can possibly be justified, don’t apply to them.  Yet, the Gothamist offers a story that defies this:

Authorities say that at 2:33 a.m. on Thursday, 30-year-old Jeffrey Balzotti, an NYPD sergeant, was arrested while allegedly driving drunk within the confines of the 10th precinct. He was charged with a DWI and driving recklessly.

On Friday morning, at around 4:30 a.m., the NYPD says Jose Vanderpool, a 30-year-old police officer, was pulled over in Queens and charged with a DWI. The Post reports he was involved in a collision on 32nd Avenue in Jackson Heights, and refused a breathalyzer.

And less than an hour later at 5:05 a.m., authorities say NYPD sergeant Donald Stewart, 34, was arrested near Fulton and Boyland Streets in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He was also charged with a DWI.

Three busts in 27 hours this past week, all involving cops driving drunk?  And two sergeants?  What gives?

Not only does this response fly in the face of common experience, but it raises a great many questions. So if three cops are arrested for drink driving in this one period, what of all the drunk driving cops who were cut loose before?  Is this a new policy of the NYPD, to no longer give courtesy to their brothers? If so, was it just this period to send a message, or will this be the new rule going forward?  Does this apply to everything, or just drunk driving? Will they be ticketed for speeding, for running lights, for recklessness when it doesn’t involve alcohol?

From the outside perspective, a 27-hour period where three cops, and not probationary rookies but experienced officers, sergeants, get busted is a game changer.  The message a day like this sends is that the New York City Police Department may finally be getting the message that cops aren’t above the law, and that the rest of the city has had it with the special treatment shown their own.

Within the department, a day like this could be the start of the sort of internal anger and protests that marked the hatred toward Mayor David Dinkins.  One would think it hard to mount a campaign based upon the right to commit crimes with impunity, but the combination of pro-police bias and facile rhetoric has long proven adequate to the task.  PBA president Pat Lynch is far beyond shameless, which is why he’s held the position forever.

It’s not that it’s completely unheard of for cops to be arrested for drunk driving.  When they crash into another vehicle, particularly when it was parked, or nearly run down a squad of their own.  And of the three arrested in the 27-hour period, one was involved in a crash, though the details are unsaid.

What does this all mean?  Does it mean anything?

Some might speculate that because they’re cops, they will receive special treatment by the prosecutors and courts, and that may be the case but it’s purely speculative at this point.  They will be subject to department discipline regardless, which may not be as harsh as some might think appropriate, but still involves a significant hit in addition to whatever happens in court.

If this is an indication that the NYPD under its new chief, Bill Bratton, is taking a dim view of cops committing crimes, and that they will neither be ignored, swept under the rug or condoned, then this could go a long way to restoring public trust following too many years, too many millions of people, frisked for being young and black.  But then, this is just one of a great many things that have broken faith between the police and the people.

Still, it’s a positive sign, if it’s a sign at all.  As I responded to Turk when he sent me the link to the story, it’s like the old joke, what do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start.


14 thoughts on “Is Three A Start, A Finish, or Just Three?

  1. william doriss

    Maybe Bratton has started paying bonuses if one cop manages to arrest another?
    (Well, I tried.)

    [Ed. Note: Off topic meandering deleted.]

    Maybe it was a slow nite for police work? New York is so safe now that when you run out of people to arrest, you’ve got to arrest your own in order to “make quota”. Ha. I think that’s it.
    When they start arresting them for abusing their wives and girlfriends, then I’ll be convinced.

  2. John Burgess

    Maybe it’s ‘recency effect’ or an artifact of selective reporting, but it seems to me that more cops, everywhere, are getting nailed for DUI/DWI. The website that reports on police misconduct has almost daily reports on it from across the country.

    Frequently, it seems that the cops involved are allowed to resign instead of facing charges, but many are being charged, fired, and convicted.

    Perhaps a critical number of members of LEO families have been affected by drunk-driving cops?

    1. SHG Post author

      Maybe. It would be interesting to learn what’s really behind this, if its become a line even cops can’t cross.

  3. John Neff

    Because they arrested command staff it is possible that they mean business. In my jurisdiction the formal arrest of an officer is made by an officer from another department or by an officer from internal security. I wonder if internal security was involved.

  4. bill

    This sounds pretty statistically insignificant from here. Cops drink and drive, NYC is a hard place to drink and drive compared to say Rural South Carolina, 3 data points does not a story make. I’ll keep my fingers crossed but this is likely just flipping a coin 3 times and getting heads each time.

  5. Michael McNutt

    Three arrested but how many convicted and sent to jail? When that happens than you’ll have a story.

  6. LexRex

    Who did they piss off?? Maybe they are the good guys. DWI arrests aren’t hard to fake – especially since a cop knows NEVER to blow.

  7. Clifford

    It’s time for the city to do what’s right, Nobody is above the law, when you are off duty , you should conduct yourself as a civilian like everybody. Follow and respect the law is a plus

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