Even the police officers responsible for enforcing DUI laws occasionally get busted for drinking and driving. Last week, Memphis police major Prentiss Jolly was arrested and charged with a DUI after his pickup sideswiped another vehicle on Highway 385.
It wasn't the first time Jolly had been charged with DUI, and an investigation into the incident is still pending. Had it been Jolly's first DUI, however, a new Memphis Police Department program might have offered him a second chance.
According to police director Larry Godwin, the department will begin extending its "last chance" rehabilitation program — once only offered to officers with drug problems — to alcohol offenders this week.
"If we're going to try and help someone with drugs, we certainly ought to try and help someone with alcohol," Godwin said. "If they end up getting convicted of a DUI, that doesn't mean we can't still terminate them. But we should be reaching out."
Currently, the Memphis Police Department terminates officers charged with DUI. Godwin says many officers plead guilty to lesser charges, such as reckless driving, and that enables the Civil Service Board to re-instate the officers to the force.
Jolly received his first DUI in 1990 while on military leave in Kentucky. He was then terminated from the MPD for a conduct violation stemming from the DUI. Since he was never convicted of the DUI, however, he was re-instated by the Civil Service Board.
Under the MPD's "last chance" program, an officer charged with a DUI will be given an automatic 15-day suspension. Then they'll be required to attend an alcohol treatment program. Once complete, they may be allowed to remain with the force.
"We're not limited to the last chance program, but it's something we can do. If the DUI is their fourth or fifth personal conduct charge, we might decide to terminate them anyway," Godwin said.
The MPD has used the "last chance" option for officers with drug problems for years. Any officers suspected of using drugs are tested, and if they fail, they're offered a chance at drug treatment.
Since 2006, at least 10 MPD officers, including one DUI officer, have been terminated or resigned following a DUI arrest.