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Drunk-driving cops continue deadly trend

ALTHOUGH in Slovakia a zero-tolerance rule applies to people driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood, accidents caused by drunk motorists are common. More worrying is that police officers are often behind the wheel.
Such behaviour has been going on for years, but in the past, the police force has kept quiet about the phenomenon. Some say the former reluctance to make the problem public is partly responsible for the increase in this type of crime.
The Interior Ministry recently changed its policy, and now every time a policeman is booked for drunk driving, the public gets to hear about it. The cop in question loses his job and is sanctioned as if he were a civilian.


FORMER cop Ján J. shows remorse for drunk driving in January.
photo: Sme: Ján Krošlák

ALTHOUGH in Slovakia a zero-tolerance rule applies to people driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood, accidents caused by drunk motorists are common. More worrying is that police officers are often behind the wheel.

Such behaviour has been going on for years, but in the past, the police force has kept quiet about the phenomenon. Some say the former reluctance to make the problem public is partly responsible for the increase in this type of crime.

The Interior Ministry recently changed its policy, and now every time a policeman is booked for drunk driving, the public gets to hear about it. The cop in question loses his job and is sanctioned as if he were a civilian.

Statistics showed that in 2001 drunk police officers caused one car accident every week. The situation was hardly better in 2002:


January 6 - The district police head P.K. from Kolárov, with a blood alcohol level of 1.33, hits a cyclist who dies at the scene.


January 7 - The vice-head of Trenčín district police, Alexander Š. hits 28-year-old mother Zuzana A. and her baby boy. Both die; the baby at the scene, the mother one day later. The policeman's blood alcohol level is 1.23. He is later sentenced to less than three years in prison. He could be released for good behaviour after serving half that sentence.


January 17 - Police officer Ján J., 26, kills a father of three in Brezno and flees the scene. The officer's blood alcohol level is 1.94.


January 18 - Interior Minister Ivan Šimko declares war on drunk-driving policemen. All officers who cause an accident under the influence of alcohol are to be immediately released from service.


February 2 - An elderly woman loses a leg in Prešov after being struck by a drunk-driving police academy student.


February 9 - A policeman involved in a road accident that left his passenger with serious injuries faces criminal charges after tests show he had a blood alcohol content of 3.8 parts per thousand.


February 11 - After the latest tragedy Interior Minister Ivan Šimko proposes that police crimes be tried before a military rather than a civilian court in future.


March 17 - Igor Březovják, 33, a member of the police headquarters anti-fraud division, crashes his Mercedes into a Škoda Fabia. He is found by traffic police to have 1.42 parts per thousand of alcohol in his blood. His name is published by the Interior Ministry as part of Minister Ivan Šimko's 'name-and-shame' policy for drunk-driving police.


May 20 - Two people die in another accident caused by a drunk-driving Slovak policeman. Michal Šamaj, 22, a border guard, skids off the road in Malacky hitting a pole and killing his two passengers, one of whom was his father.


May 21 - Miroslav Kmeť, 47, of the Banská Bystrica force, wrecks his car in an accident that caused no injuries. He was found to have 3.11 parts per thousand of alcohol in his blood stream.


October 8 - The police inspection chief for Slovakia's second-largest city Košice, Jaroslav Dzúrik, crashes his police car when returning from a meeting of inspection chiefs, where some of his colleagues reportedly tried to talk to him about his drinking problem. Dzúrik drives away from the scene after colliding with another car and no major damage is done. Tests show that the officer's blood alcohol level is 3.04 parts of alcohol per thousand.


October 18 - The new Interior Minister Vladimír Palko comes out strongly against officers who break the law, and particularly those who drive drunk.


November 16 - Turning off the main road from Trstená to Tvrdošín in the Žilina region a senior off-duty police officer fails to yield right of way to another car coming in the opposite direction.

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