Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force


The Chicago police department has been affected by cases of alcoholism among their officers in the recent past. The notoriety of the officers as far as violation of rules due to alcoholism has been highlighted by the media and the public as a result holds a negative opinion of the department. It is as a result of this that the writer set out to find as much information as possible on this problem. After garnering information on the vice, the researcher recommended a program that can be adopted to rehabilitate the situation. Some of the facts gathered on alcoholism include the effects it has on the body of the individual and to the work environment. The negative impact it has on the image and integrity of the police force was also highlighted. The researcher then came up with steps that are to be followed in curbing this situation. They include educating the police officers on the negative effects of alcoholism and improving their working environment.


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force


Alcoholism can be conceptualized as a condition that involves continuous and consistent consumption of alcohol. This is despite the fact the consumption of the same could be having dire consequences to the person. This condition, also referred to as dipsomania, leads to the person been so dependent on alcohol such that their normal activities can not be performed unless they are under the influence.

America and Chicago State for that matter, has a relatively high rate of alcoholism. It averages 20% of the whole population (Coyle, 2008). However, the police profession seems to have a disproportionately higher number of alcoholics. According to a study conducted Police Dynamics Institute, Inc in 2006, the police profession leads in some of the social ills affecting the society (McKinney, 2009). According to this study, divorce rate among the police officers is about 60-70% above that of national average. The rate of domestic violence among the police officers is the highest in America. But most important, according to this study which was conducted in Chicago police department, the rate of alcoholism in this profession is double that of the national average (McKinney, 2009). This means then that the rate of alcoholism among Chicago police officers stand at 40%. This is a big number under any circumstances.


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

This research is going to highlight the alcoholism problem within Chicago police department. To do this, the researcher will first identify the effects that alcohol has on the human body, and how it affects the functionality of the individual within a high stress and problem solving environment. This will be especially important given the fact that the police usually operate under such conditions. The researcher will also highlight the impact that alcoholism has had on the image of the Chicago police department. A program will be devised that aims to eliminate or effectively manage alcoholism in this police department. A marketing strategy to alert the officers about the presence of help in case of problem with alcoholism will also be discussed in detail.

Objectives of the Research

The major objective of this research is to examine the problem of alcoholism within Chicago police department. To achieve this objective, the writer will be guided by several specific objectives. These are as listed below:

1. identifying alcoholism as a problem within Chicago police department

2. identification of the effects of alcohol on the human body

3. effects of alcohol on the ability of the person to function under high stress and problem solving environment

4. impact of alcoholism on the image and integrity of Chicago police organization

5. identification of a program within the police department that is aimed at combating alcoholism and the negative impact the same has had on the departments image and reputation


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

6. formulation of a marketing strategy to effectively inform the officers about the presence of help as far as alcoholism is concerned

Alcoholism within Chicago Police Department

Alcoholism can not be denied as been a problem that exists within Chicago police department. The superintendent of this department, Jody Weiss, knows this only too well. She revealed that in 2008, thirteen officers from her department were apprehended for driving under the influence of alcohol (Malman, 2009). Five of the officers were involved in motor accidents within the state. Two of the accidents were serious such that they resulted in personal injuries either to the officers or to other people around them (Malman, 2009).

The Chicago Tribune started making enquiries in 2008 to rising incidents of traffic violations committed by police officers who were under the influence. This is after a particularly gory accident on Dan Ryan Expressway led to the loss of two lives (Malman, 2009). This accident involved Detective Joseph Frugoli of Chicago police department. A blood-alcohol content test was carried out on the officer with alarming results. It was three times that of legal drinking limit specified in the state’s statutes (McKinney, 2009).

This was not the first time that Frugoli has been involved in car accidents. The same year, he was reported as having been involved in two other such incidents in Illinois. But no tests were conducted on him because the officers who went on the site of the accidents claimed that he did not look drunk to them (Malman, 2009).

Superintendent Jody Weiss was concerned with the turn of events within his department following the increasing number of cases involving his officers. This led him to repeal


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

departmental policy such that a police officer who believes that his colleague is drunk must report him immediately (McKinney, 2009). He has also introduced the idea of peer counselors within the department so that the affected officers, who are deemed to have a problem, can obtain help from these counselors.

The thirteen police officers were not relieved of their duty. This means that they are still within the department. It can then be said that if thirteen officers are already known to be alcoholics in the department, there must be others, and the problem has not gone away. It is still persisting. The officers received minor disciplinary actions like suspension and relegation to desk duty (Malman, 2009).

Effects of Alcohol on the Human Body

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that it has a range of side effects to this system. There are those short term effects, those that occur immediately after consumption of alcohol, and those that are long term (Goodwin, 2005). The latter are those that are cumulative in effect. They accumulate over a long period of time.

Ethanol, which is the major component of alcohol, is the substance that is credited with most of the effects of alcohol, especially those that are short term. It inhibits the ability of glutamate to open the cation channel (Milwaukee, 2006). This is the one that is associated with N-methly-D-aspartate glutamate receptors. It sensitizes this system of the brain. As a result, it makes it more receptive to glutamate receptors. Cortex, hippocampus and nucleus accumbens are some of the parts of the brain that are stimulated (Milwaukee, 2006). These portions of the brain are associated with thinking and pleasure seeking.

Relaxation is another effect that alcohol has on the body. This is caused by the process of neurons transmitting electrical currents in a pattern that is associated with relaxation (Duganis,


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

2007). This is alpha waves pattern, which has been associated with been present when the body is relaxed.

The motor reflections of the body system are dulled by alcohol. Sometimes, under low concentrations of this substance, the individual is animated ad excited, both in speech and in action. This is attributed to rise in rate of metabolism in those parts of the human brain that are for movement. This is for example the nigrostriatal pathway (Turnbull, 2008). The reward systems of the brain are animated by this action. This is combined with decreased comprehension of the consequences of the actions that the individual is undertaking. This is why people act in uninhibited manner, out of their character.

Alcohol also affects the production of antidiuretic hormone (Callista, 2009). This is the hormone that regulates the reabsorption of water from the kidneys in the process of filtration. This substance achieves this fete by interrupting the hypothalamus’ osmoreceptors. The effect of this is that there is reduced production of antidiuretic hormone, and so the body is unable to reabsorb much water from the kidneys. This has the effect of increasing the volume of urine, while at the same time dehydrating the body (Turnbull, 2008).

Alcohol also impairs the memory of the individual. This is because it acts on the gamma-aminobutyric acid system which is an inhibitor of the brain activities (Turnbull, 2008). This is the reason why there is memory impairment on the part of the alcohol consumer. This is because the aforementioned system affects the registration and consolidation of memory, meaning that the individual will never remember what transpired when he was drunk most of the times.

Anterograde amnesia is another influence of alcohol on the human body. This is what many people refer to as blacking out (Callista, 2009). This can be associated with the impairment of the person’s memory procedures. Ataxia also arises from alcohol consumption, especially in conspicuous amounts (Callista, 2009). This is manifested in jerky and uncoordinated movements of the alcoholic’s limbs. The movement creates the impression of limbs acting


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

independent of one another. The person exhibits inconsistent positioning of his foot. This is as a result of truncal ataxia (Coyle, 2008). Ataxia is brought about by the action of alcohol on the person’s cerebellum.

Apart from the effects that the substance wrought on the brain of the individual, there are other parts of the body that are affected. They include cirrhosis of the liver and pancreatitis (Coyle, 2008). Cirrhosis of the liver is caused by heavy and regular intake of alcohol which leads to increased metabolism activities of the organ. Dementia, sexual dysfunction and polyneuropathy are other effects that alcohol has on human body.

Effects of Alcohol on Ability to Function in a High Stress and Problem Solving Environment

This research focused on alcoholism in the police department, taking Chicago as the target department. This means that for the research to be deemed as complete, the researcher has to look at the effects that alcohol has on the ability of the person to function under stressful and problem solving environment. This is because this scenario describes the working environment of police officers. Alcohol affects their ability to function under these circumstances.

Most of the effects that alcohol has on this aspect of working environment can be deduced from the social effects of this substance. These problems arise partly due to the pathological changes that alcohol has on the brain of the individual. It also arises because of the intoxication that results from consumption of this substance (McDonald, 2006).

One off the major effects of alcohol is hangover. This manifests itself in form of headaches and lack of concentration (Machell, 2008). A person who is suffering from hangover cannot function in his work. This is because the job needs a lot of concentration if decisions are to be made. But concentration is affected by the hangover. A police officer who is hangover will not be able to


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

operate within his demanding environment.

Alcohol is addictive. This means that the individual can develop the urge to drink at any time of the day at any place. This is what happens when alcoholics drink while they are working. If the person is operating in an environment as described above, then he indulge his urge for alcohol, he will be unable to function when drunk (McDonald, 2006).

There is also an interference with the judgment ability of the individual due to alcohol. This is the reason why most drunkards are at risk of causing road accidents. Driving is a problem solving task that involves a lot of concentration. But under the influence of alcohol, this is impaired. The judgment of the police officer at work, due to the mental effects of alcohol, is also impaired (Milwaukee, 2006). This is of serious concern given that making judgments is one of the major functions of the officer. When he is presented with a case or a problem, the officer has to make a decision as to the action that should be taken. This is impossible to accomplish if the person is drunk.

Lateness and absenteeism has been reported to be very rampant among alcoholics. This is because the drunken person finds it very hard to go to the office the morning preceding the drinking spree. The reason for this is the hangover accompanying binges of alcohol consumption. The person will report late to work as he spends long hours trying to sort out the hangover, or he may opt to skip work all together (Lindsay, 2009). The absenteeism level increases if the job the person is involved in is highly stressing. This is the case among police officers. They are not sure if they will be able to handle the hassles that they are likely to face if they get out of the house and go to the office in their state of partial stupor (Lindsay, 2009). The job the person engages in suffers negatively. High stressing and problem solving working environment usually calls for the continual presence of the officer in the station. If he skips duty, the job will suffer.

Withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol can be very severe at times. They may involve depression, irritability and others. In this state of mind, the person cannot function fully at his


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

job. This is because he cannot concentrate and he finds it very hard to cooperate with the others. Corporation with others is especially critical in decision making. Due to the irritable nature of the officer or his depression, he avoids his colleagues or they avoid him (Turnbull, 2008). This way, decisions cannot be made.

Impact of Alcoholism on the Image and Integrity of Chicago Police Department

The negative impact that this development is having on the image and integrity of this police organization cannot be downplayed. This is understandable if you consider that the police are supposed to be the epitome of discipline and integrity in the society. The alcoholism episodes put them at a very awkward position.

The negative image of this development is perpetuated by the press. On April 16, 2009, the Chicago Tribune highlighted a story about how thirteen officers from this department were arrested for drunken driving in 2008 (Malman, 2009. the writer of this article was fired into action by the earlier mentioned accident that was caused by a detective who was drunk. Negative coverage in a wide circulating paper like this one really does not help maintain the image of the police as the upholders of law and order.

The Huffington Post carried the same story on the same day (McKinney, 2009). It is one thing for a negative story to be published by one paper. It can easily be refuted, or if not refuted, it will not make a big impact on the public. But when two reputable tabloids, several equally reputable websites and a magazine carry out the same story, the effects cannot be ignored. A wide coverage will be attained, and a lot f people will develop a negative attitude towards the police force.

The police officers are known for their tendency for domestic violence. They are also notorious for divorces (McDonald, 2008). These attributes can be traced to their alcoholism. A drunken


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

officer is likely to argue with his wife than a sober one. He is likely to abuse his wife physically than a sober officer. It is these frequent physical abuses that eventually lead to divorce. A force that is leading in divorce rates will not occupy the most prestigious perch on the public opinion domain.

Police officers are always in contact with the public. In fact, one of the competencies they are expected to possess is handling clients. But this is not possible to a drunken police officer. Weiss, the Chicago police superintendent, says that there has been increasing rates of complaints to his office on officers that have been rude to the clients (McKinney, 2009). This rudeness is associated with alcoholism, as a drunken officer tends to be more rude and irritable than a sober one.

A Program to Combat Alcohol Abuse among the Police Officers and to Rehabilitate the Negative Image of the Police Department

If something is not done soon, this situation will get out of hand. This is not a recent phenomenon. The problem is that it seems to be getting worse each and everyday. Hal Brown, a police counselor in Massachusetts, is of the view that for the past twenty five years, he has been dealing with such cases, but they seem to be getting out of hand lately (Coyle, 2008). This is because recent years have seen developments in the society that make the job of the officer more stressing than earlier before. There is increase in crime, plus the economic crunch that leads to difficulty in maintaining a respectable lifestyle. Combination of these factors means that the officer finds it crucial to relieve his tensions after work. One way of relieving his tension is to embark on alcohol imbibitions.

The researcher is of the view that the department should engage in early preventive and intervention measures to curb this condition. He is of the view that the culture that exists within the police force is the one that encourages alcohol consumption (Doganis, 2007). It is true that the duty of the officers is stressing. But it is acceptable within the police ranks for the officer to relieve his stress by use of alcohol. Peer pressure leads the officers to congregate in drinking dens instead of finding other constructive means to sort their problems.


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

The following are the components of the program that the researcher proposes to address this problem:

Improvement of Physical and Mental Fitness of the Officers

Machell (2008) is or the view that people leading unhealthy lifestyles are more susceptible to alcoholism than others. Improving the lifestyle of these people will then form a very important aspect of dealing with their alcoholism. Healthy lifestyle leads to mental and physical fitness. A fit individual is more likely to resist destructive habits like alcoholism.

The first step then is to improve the mental and physical fitness of the police officers (Callista, 2009). This should begin during the academy based training to the working environment. The researcher proposes that the department ensures that each and every police station is equipped with fitness equipment like gym and playing ground. The officers will pass through the gym after their shift to kill their stress, rather than passing by the local pub.

Educate on Lifestyle

People who engage in alcoholism rarely realize that it is a problem or a lifestyle factor. It is crucial then to educate them and highlight to them the fact that alcoholism is a sign of a maladaptive lifestyle. The effects of this habit, both to the individual and to others in the society, should also be highlighted (Doganis, 2007). The short term and long term effects, both to the health and to the social competency of the individual, should be made clear.


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

The researcher proposes an education system within the system to impart this knowledge on the police officers. This education can be carried out by specially trained police counselors or through peer counselors. Those officers who are identified as having alcohol problems should especially be targeted by this program.

Reduction of Risk Factors

There have been several risk factors that have been associated with alcoholism. They include stress in the work place, economic hardships and the like (Douglas, 2007). For the police officers, stress at the work place may emanate from a bad relationship with the supervisors or with co-workers. The condition of the work, for example running after criminals and such activities, also stresses the officers.

A person who is stressed is more likely to embark on alcohol consumption. This is why the researcher proposes a mechanism to reduce the stress at the work place for the officers. These measures may include improving the communication channels between the police officers and their superiors and other fellow co-workers. This can be done through formulation of activities like meetings that will bring them together. The salary of the officers should also be improved to let them cope effectively in these economically hard times.

Marketing Strategy for the Aforementioned Program

It will be pointless to come up with such an elaborate plan to help the police officers but not let them know about the existence of such a plan. That is why the researcher finds it mandatory to come up with a mechanism that will ensure that those police officers who are affected by this problem get to know of the availability of this program.


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

The marketing of this program will be done through police newsletters. The internal magazines and newsletters that are published for the consumption of the police officers, for example the Se curity Watch,

will carry advertisements featuring the availability of such services. Supervisors commanding the police centers will also be encouraged to refer officers who they deem to have a problem to these services. This will also apply for the police officers. It will be made mandatory that should a police officer believe that his fellow has a problem, he should report him so that he can be availed to these services, failure to report will result to a disciplinary action against the officer.


Alcoholism is rampant within the police ranks. The prevalence of this problem cannot be ignored anymore. There has been several factors that has been put forth to explain why the officers are affected so much by this problem. The factors include their physical and mental unfitness. Another factor is the stress situation of the work they are involved in.

Alcoholism impacts negatively on the health of the police officer. This leads to reduced output of the personnel. The image of the police department is also affected negatively. The writer proposed several steps that could be incorporated in a program to address this problem. They include reduction of the risk factors like stress in the workplace together with lifestyle education.


Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force


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Alcoholism and Chicago Police Force

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