Police and other law enforcement officers are often held to higher standards than the general public, but they can also commit crimes. A study found that between 2005-2011, there were 6,724 arrests involving 5,545 sworn police officers. The most common charges that law enforcement officers faced in the study were simple assault, aggravated assault, and of course, driving under the influence. A police officer being charged with DUI, especially while on-duty can have serious repercussions, such as administrative penalties and job loss. However, it seems that some police departments aren’t charging their police officers criminally, according to the LA Times.
A corporal for the South Pasadena Police Department named Ryan Bernal knew that he was in trouble. After a night of heavy drinking, he awoke when his vehicle crashed into a pole, which then toppled onto the patio roof of a house in Duarte. The house was occupied at the time.
He didn’t call the police. Instead, he drove his vehicle around the block, walked to a Walmart nearby and called a ride-hailing service and slipped away. The next day, he came to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station with his mother, who tried to take the blame for the accident and the DUI. Bernal resigned in 2017 after his superiors threatened to charge him with making false statements, committing a hit-and-run, and attempting to obstruct an internal affairs inquiry.
Prosecutors declined to charge him with the hit-and-run. According to a sheriff’s investigator, colleagues of Bernal who had crucial evidence refused to cooperate.
This incident is one of the hundreds of cases that are being examined by the California Reporting Project. The agency is made up of 33 news organizations who will be analyzing internal police records that have recently been released, thanks to a new law. The hope is to gain insight into how law enforcement agencies evaluate misconduct.