Denver cops allowed to drink on the job as part of "official duties"? Yep -- and it makes sense

Earlier this week, we got a tip about a strange city policy from a citizen who'd worked as an election judge. As a temporary employee, the city gave the tipster its official drug and alcohol policy.

Most of it was standard -- no drinking or drugging on the job -- but the tipster noticed an odd exception: Police employees are allowed to drink "in accordance with police department procedures."

We called the Denver Elections Division, which furnished us with a copy of the policy (on view below). It's a 2002 memo from then-mayor Wellington Webb that spells out the city's policy "concerning the problem of drug and alcohol use in the workplace."

In the section labeled "Alcohol," the policy says employees are prohibited from consuming alcohol while performing city business, driving a city vehicle or while on city property. It then lists three exceptions:

There are three exceptions to this prohibition. (1) An employee is not on duty and attending an officially sanctioned private function, e.g., an invitation-only library reception. (2) An employee is not on duty and at a City location as a customer, e.g., playing golf on a City course. (3) An employee is a member of the Police Department and as a part of the employee's official duties, consumes alcohol in accordance with Police Department procedures.

Why would a police officer need to consume alcohol as part of his or her official duties? Denver Police Department spokeswoman Raquel Lopez provided us with the answer: "That would only be officers that are working undercover," she says. For example, she says, they may be conducting a sting that involves alcohol.

Unfortunately, election judges have to follow the rules.

View the city's policy below:

Denver Employees Drug Alcohol Policy

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar