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Investigation into drunk-driving cops opens eyes across Wisconsin

Every state in the nation treats a first-time drunken driving offense as a criminal matter. Every state but Wisconsin, that is. Given the state's hands-off approach, it should probably come as no surprise that a newspaper across the state from La Crosse has uncovered what appears to be police department coddling of officers caught driving drunk.

According to the newspaper's investigation, Milwaukee police officers routinely receive little punishment for driving while intoxicated, even when they cause car accidents and injuries.

The in-depth article recounts the story of one officer who was driving drunk when his pick-up truck rammed a woman standing next to a disabled car on the freeway. One witness thought the woman was dead after they saw her thrown onto the median, knocked out.

But the 20-year-old lived. She said she spent six weeks at home recovering from her injuries.

That's more time than the officer was suspended from his job, the report notes. In fact, he was suspended just 10 days even though his blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit.

Criminal charges against him were dropped and he was ordered to pay just a $300 fine for a traffic ticket.

The light punishment "is not an anomaly" the newspaper concludes after spending two years analyzing police department records.

The paper notes that Milwaukee's largest cab company fires drivers convicted just once of drunken driving, and Wisconsin truck drivers lose their commercial driver's licenses with a second conviction.

The newspaper raises interesting questions about the police officers entrusted by the public, and paid by the public, to uphold the laws and do their best to ensure that Wisconsin drivers are as safe as they can be when traveling the state's streets and highways.

However, injured victims of drunk drivers should know that they can obtain compensation for damages, including medical expenses, physical therapy costs, lost income and more.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Milwaukee police often face minimal punishment for driving drunk," Gina Barton, Oct. 25, 2011

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