The Better Government Association (BGA) disputes assertions made in the Feb. 20 online article titled, “Forest Park Police: BGA Cop Intoxication Report Incomplete” and the subsequent posting on your Oak Park/River Forest website [OakPark.com]. Since your reporter failed to call the BGA for comment on the claims and assertions made in the article, the BGA is compelled to set the record straight.
The story states the BGA reported officers “could come to work intoxicated.” Nowhere does it say that in the original story.
The BGA has never made that remark, and please note that the BGA respects law enforcement and public safety professionals.
The story quotes a Forest Park deputy chief as saying the force’s policies prohibit employees from being intoxicated on the job. But that comment does not address the greater question: What is considered intoxication? As the BGA report notes, the definition for each department is found in the union contracts and the accepted levels vary—some departments consider a .05 blood alcohol concentration intoxicated while others say .08, which is considered legally drunk in Illinois.
The Oak Park police chief [Rick Tanksley] is quoted as saying the BGA “misinterpreted” department policies regarding this issue. Not true. In fact, the BGA specifically mentions that Oak Park and Elmwood Park said they would try to discipline police officers who come to work suspected of intoxication.
Furthermore, we suggest that your story would have provided your readers some important information if the reporter had reached out to Mike Durkin, labor attorney for Forest Park, for comment on this important issue. Durkin told the BGA that he’d like to see contract language changed to 0.0 blood-alcohol levels, regardless of how certain police chiefs see the contract language currently. If your reporter had called, we would have suggested contacting Durkin.
By the way, the BGA contacted every police department mentioned in our original story to get their side of the issue. You can go to our website, www.bettergov.org, to read the entire report and decide for yourselves the merits of our investigation.
The BGA is a staunch believer in having a free and open dialogue and will be happy to discuss this matter with your communities. We send this response in hopes of getting the facts out and in the interest of shining a light on government.
Director of programming and investigations, Better Government Association