In the wake of controversy revolving around State Police Trooper Sheila McKaig’s alleged drinking and driving incidents over the years, the New Jersey State Police have implemented new standards aimed at curbing potential abuses of power that some have said police officers occasionally commit when they are stopped for offenses such as DWI.
In McKaig’s case, numerous news reports indicate that she was never ticketed even though the officer was stopped multiple times for driving while intoxicated over the course of three months back in 2008. In this particular situation, the judge in the case did not recommend firing the trooper outright on the grounds that that McKaig did seek counseling and has been considered a model for other police officers.
Back to the NJ State Police and its newly instituted policies for officers caught driving under the influence according to reports, the agency has reportedly launched a review of the use by troopers of so-called “undercover identification cards.” Along with this, orders from up the chain of command within the State Police reportedly increase the accountability on the part of higher-ranked officers and requires more careful review of traffic stops (including car accidents) that may have been related to alcohol consumption.
As a New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyer, I and my staff, understand that the police have a tough job of maintaining the peace and bringing alleged perpetrators to justice. However, when the rules cease to apply to the vary people entrusted with the public’s safety this is when our tolerance as individuals and a society begins to be tested.
According to news reports, policy changes at the State Police will place responsibility squarely on the shoulders of regional commanders when a trooper is suspected of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. In fact, based on information provided by local news sources, higher-ranking officers may even be required to respond themselves to the scene of a possibly alcohol-related traffic incident involving another law enforcement officer.
Top-ranked State Police officials now will require their upper echelon commanders — those in charge of operations and investigations — to carefully review the agency’s current protocols, especially in regard to the aforementioned undercover identification cards. As part of the new, stricter State Police policies, those top commanders were told to provide the State Police superintendent with written recommendations on when undercover ID cards should be presented to responding officers at the scene of an accident or motor vehicle traffic stop.
At the time of the news article, it was not yet certain if any of the agency’s protocols would be changed to address the latest events. Furthermore, it was stated that any State Police trooper who presents a fictitious credential will be required to provide to his or her supervisor an explanation for that action.
In the end, the New Jersey State Police obviously want to maintain the personal safety of their officers as well as the integrity of any undercover operations that may be underway, and which may require the use of those credentials in question. We can only hope that the top commander at the State Police can continue to maintain a high level of public safety while curbing the potential abuses that can occur with some who are in a position of authority.
NJ state police implement stricter DWI policies, SouthJerseyLocalNews.com, May 16, 2011