Car crashes are increasing in number every year in Slovakia.
The head of district police in Kolárov, P.K., hit a cyclist on Sunday January 6. P.K.'s blood test showed a 1.33 alcohol level. The cyclist died at the scene.
The following day the vice-head of Trenčín police headquarters Alexander Š. crashed into a 28-year-old mother, Zuzana A. who was carrying her baby in her arms. The infant died immediately and the mother, who suffered serious injuries, died one day later in Trenčín hospital. The policeman's blood alcohol was 1.23.
Superiors of both policemen have already proposed that P.K. and Alexander Š. leave the police force. Both men have also been charged with causing death and endangering public safety under the influence of alcohol and could face up to five years in jail.
Although the policemen were off-duty at the time of the tragic accidents, Interior Minister Ivan Šimko says he is ready to prepare an order which would mean that any drunk officer involved in an accident be fired from service without financial compensation.
"We must bear in mind that the accidents took place when the individual policemen were off-duty. But I care very much about investigating and drawing consequences against the officers involved," Šimko said.
He added that he expected the police inspection unit to increase the number of random alcohol tests on the police force.
The minister promised that he would look for ways to compensate the victims families.
Police president Pavol Zajac, who personally apologised to the relatives of the victims killed by the two drunk policemen, said that any policeman who caused an accident whilst under the influence of alcohol would be immediately dismissed from the force with no benefits or financial compensation.
But Šimko admits that the inspection office's current system of alcohol control has some shortcomings. He said the existing rules did not enable him to fire a policeman caught drunk driving by a regular traffic officer. The ministry can only fire policemen who are involved in a car crash under the influence of alcohol.
He added that it was also common for traffic officers to wave through an off-duty policeman without inspecting him once he had identified himself with his police card.
Jozef Pacacha, spokesman with the Interior Ministry's Inspection office, said he was aware of the problem but said it was "a matter for the officers' direct superiors" who are obliged to randomly run alcohol controls on their officers at least once a month.
When a policeman is off-duty, there must be serious grounds form him to undergo an alcohol test sanctioned by his superior. Officers are not fined on the spot but all findings are dealt with by individual disciplinary proceedings.
Pacacha said that in 2001 the inspection office carried out about 150 random alcohol controls around the country's police districts and not one officer was found drunk on duty. In 2000 there were three positive cases.
However, Pacacha argued that the police did not have a severe drink problem when compared to other professions.
"I'd like to have a statistics carried out to see which departments drink most. I'm sure we wouldn't rank first," he said.