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APD enforces 'Zero Tolerance' policy for employees charged with DWI

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It wasn't a memo or a department-wide e-mail. APD Chief Art Acevedo spoke to his employees this week through a video.

The message? He's cracking down on APD employees driving drunk -- the first time they're caught doing it.

"Historically what we've done for a first time DWI -- we take into consideration the totality of the circumstances. Normally we would give somebody about a...30 to 45 day suspension," Acevedo said.

But now, APD says regardless of whether the employee is convicted if the crime, if the department's internal review finds them responsible, they're gone.

"If our investigation shows through an abundance of evidence that someone at our department, whether they're sworn or unsworn committed a violation of DWI, drove and put people at risk without excuse or justification, we're not gonna tolerate it,' he said.

Austin Police Association president Wayne Vincent is against this new zero tolerance policy and the delivery method of the message.

"The way it was put out, Hollywood-style in a feature film...I don't think set too well with the rank and file. Beyond that, it's kind of an alarming management tool. The chief has discretion to fire officers for DWI or not to fire but with this policy he seems to take his own discretion away," Vincent said.

Vincent says it's not like officers who have been arrested for DWI before have been given a free ride at the department.

He says following an officer's suspension, they're usually given a probation period as well.

"It's hard! Very hard to come back from that even if you keep your job. Ironically, we've had some officers who have gone through that and made that mistake...and they came back and they're excellent police officers now. This policy says we're just gonna throw you away regardless of the circumstances," Vincent said.

Vincent says the Police Association takes drunk driving seriously as well...offering cab vouchers and help for those who have a problem. But he says the new policy is an un-needed pressure.

"I don't think there's a police officer that works here that doesn't know the serious nature of what could happen to them if they get arrested for DWI up to including firing. I don't think you need a big media blitz with a film to further scare those officers," Vincent said.

Vincent says the new policy doesn't change the way they do things.

They'll still be making sure the officers have due process and if they're arrested for DWI, they want to make sure the officer was actually driving drunk before getting fired for it.

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