While I was growing in Georgetown, the sight of a policeman would make you want to straighten up your posture in a manner that shows respect for authority. These men often just carried a whistle and maybe a baton, but it was extremely rare to see them packing a firearm. The revolver was the standard issue of that era.
Today however, we are in a different crime-fighting landscape. Policemen are armed to the teeth with all manner of gadgets and weaponry. When fully decked out, these men would make a Roman gladiator look like a schoolboy.
On a typical afternoon walk through my village, I observed an officer of the law in full gear exiting a convenience store. This is by no means an unusual event as police officers are human beings with similar needs and wants as the people they have sworn to protect and serve.
What caught my attention was the additional artillery that was in his hand. Beer! Not one, but two.
I immediately tried to rationalize what I saw. He was thirsty, but the store was out of water, juice, soda, or any other beverage that did not contain alcohol. He perhaps was buying it for someone that was under-age to buy it himself. He ordered water but was mistakenly handed the beers.
Why was I even bothered by this? It's just beer. I immensely enjoy the bitter drink myself. That indescribable satisfaction that you get when you sip a cold one on a Friday night after a hard week's work is to die for.
He is probably using them for target practice I thought. That must be it. Afterall, he was carrying a rifle that was almost as tall as him.
Was he alone? Was there a co-conspirator? Who keeps who in check? Is this a boost for their crime-fighting campaign?
A million questions were spiraling around my head. My little brain was in overdrive.
As a former air traffic controller, I was prohibited from using any substance that may impair my ability to do my job. I was a public servant. Is this rule only applicable to one group of public servants?
Let's just for argument's sake say that there's no rule against this. What about the optics? Were they about to drink and drive? What message are they sending to the rest of the population?
There are obviously more questions than answers.
Without passing any judgements, here are some comments that I found online in response to the question Can police officers drink alcohol while wearing their uniforms in public places in the U.S.?:
- Tim said "I have read about some places where on-duty cops in uniform were permitted to have one beer with lunch, or could drink in uniform if they were off duty. However, it's a rare practice, and a bad one, I think. I don't think that cops should smoke or drink while in uniform."
- Mike said, "No, what you see in movies about Law Enforcement in America only has a passing resemblance to the truth. In every agency I've every worked for it would be a firing infraction. At one time, NYPD allow their members 2 drinks a shift under certain circumstances, but they are the only Department I ever heard of that does."
- Angelo said, "I can't speak for every department, but for mine, no alcoholic consumption while in uniform. If you're going to the bar, change into civilian clothes first."
Of course, this Guyana, not the USA, but I would want to think that some things are uniform across the profession no matter where you are in the world.
I would not want to be under the control of a doctor, pilot, air traffic controller, taxi driver or any other safety critical public servant while they are under the influence of alcohol. I don't know about you, but I am not about to give the police a hall pass.
Some wise person once said: Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.
I once heard that after God, it's the police. Maybe there is some truth to that.
I think that it's time for me to take a cold one. A boost! Maybe I'll get some answers.