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October 30, 2012

Police officers involved shootings may be required to submit to breathalyzer testing


Police officers involved shootings may be required to submit to breathalyzer testing
Palladino v. City of New York, USDC, SDNY, #07 CV 9246, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 90291

Unions representing various ranks of police officers serving with the New York City Police Department objected to a departmental order requiring that any police officer involved in a shooting, on or off duty, that resulted in an injury or death submit to a breathalyzer test.

The unions contended that requiring police personnel to submit to such testing “without probable cause” constituted an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Federal District Court Judge George B. Daniels rejected this argument and granted the City’s motion for summary judgment.

Judge Daniels ruled that requiring police officers to submit to the breathalyzer tests under such circumstances was justified under the “special needs doctrine.” This doctrine has been relied upon to justify warrantless drug and alcohol testing of individuals employed in the public sector.*

According to the decision, the primary purpose of the searches was not crime control, but personnel management--to deter officers from becoming intoxicated and discharging their weapons. These special needs outweigh any privacy interest that officers might have in not submitting to the tests.

* See National Treasury Employees Union v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656 (1989), upholding drug and alcohol testing of public employees.

The decision is posted on the Internet at;
http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=190

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