LAPD tells officers to celebrate responsibly after seven are arrested in DUI cases

LAPD officers march in formation.
Los Angeles police officers march in formation.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

After the arrests of seven Los Angeles police officers on suspicion of drunk driving in recent days, LAPD officials are cautioning cops not to make the same mistake.

In a department-wide bulletin, LAPD brass wrote that half of those arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence had a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit, and that several of the incidents resulted in crashes with injuries.

“Unfortunately, the recent arrests are in addition to the many other alcohol- and drug-related incidents involving our department personnel throughout the year,” read the bulletin from the LAPD’s Professional Standards Bureau, which was first reported by KNBC-TV Channel 4. “These alcohol-related arrests are a substantial and sudden increase, and represent an alarming trend as the end-of-the-year celebrations commence.”


Alcohol abuse is a persistent issue in the LAPD, with many officers investigated each year for drunk driving or other alcohol-related incidents.

The problem has received scrutiny in the past as members of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, raised concerns about what they saw as the department’s lenient handling of such cases.

Under the previous chief, Charlie Beck, the department tried a new tact that showed leniency for an officer’s first offense, but was followed by a lengthy suspension, or even termination, after a second incident. At the time, Beck said this progressive discipline approach was an improvement over the traditional system, which allowed officers with several alcohol-related incidents to remain on the job and doled out incrementally more severe punishments.

The recent warning about drunk driving comes amid an ongoing debate about whether the department should tighten its rules over drinking. The commission voted in secret this month on a proposed policy change that would lower the acceptable blood-alcohol level for an off-duty, armed officer to 0.04% in some situations. The result of the vote, which was taken after members of the commission conferred with officials from the union that represents LAPD’s rank-and-file officers, hasn’t been made public.

The commission revisited the issue of off-duty drinking in response to a 2021 Times report suggesting that the department has failed to develop clear policies despite multiple cases in recent years in which officers who were off the clock and armed allegedly caused trouble, broke laws and shot people after drinking.

Another incident was highlighted in a report by the department’s independent inspector general. In it, an off-duty LAPD officer was alleged to have fired his gun, nearly striking a law enforcement officer from another agency, after consuming 15 to 20 beers. The officer, who was not identified in the report, later crashed his car into his garage, according to the report.


Despite the “potentially deadly misconduct,” a disciplinary panel ruled against firing the officer and instead called for a 65-day suspension without pay and a demotion in rank, the report said. An LAPD captain testified on the officer’s behalf, telling the board that the officer would continue to be an asset to the department despite the officer’s alcohol abuse.

Another officer retired before the department could discipline him for showing up to a protest with an open container of alcohol, wearing a Proud Boys T-shirt and “unnecessarily (creating) a disturbance,” according to an LAPD summary of disciplinary decisions. After encountering a “hostile crowd” of protesters, the former sergeant identified himself as a LAPD officer in order to “obtain preferential treatment,” the summary showed.

The policy of the other large law enforcement agency in the county, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, states that armed, off-duty deputies “shall not consume any intoxicating substance to the point where the employee is unable to or does not exercise reasonable care and/or control of the firearm.”

Under the sheriff’s policy, deputies with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08% or more are unable to “exercise reasonable care,” but deputies above that limit can rebut claims they violated the policy by trying to demonstrate they acted reasonably.

Times staff writers Richard Winton and Kevin Rector contributed to this report.