Did Madison Police Det. Jeff McPike, now serving a 60-day unpaid suspension for twice driving to work "above the legal limit" for alcohol, get treated differently from other offenders? The short answer is yes.
On Feb. 28, McPike came to work smelling of intoxicants. An internal probe determined that he had driven there "above the legal limit." Lt. Kristen Roman, the MPD's head of internal affairs, says he was given a preliminary breath test and a more sophisticated breath test using an Intoximeter.
As usually happens for enforcement actions involving police, the matter was reviewed by the City Attorney's Office. "So to that extent," concedes City Attorney Mike May, "there is a different process in place."
This is done to ensure that police treat their own without fear or favor. A similar review took place a few months back, when May's office reviewed the MPD's decision to dismiss a citation issued against a police supervisor involved in a traffic accident.
In McPike's case, Assistant City Attorney Steve Brist decided not to bring charges, citing perceived problems with the elements of proof. Specifically, he says, "it was never clear from the report when the driving took place." It may have been long enough to invalidate the test result.
McPike was placed on paid administrative leave but allowed back for light duty on March 13. Once again, the odor of intoxicants was detected, and the two breath tests showed he was above the legal limit. This time he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence. This time, says Brist, the police did not consult him: "They must have felt they had the burden of proof met in that case."
On April 11, McPike was found guilty of the noncriminal offense in Madison Municipal Court, fined $590 and had his license suspended for six months. (The Wisconsin State Journal incorrectly reported that no charges were filed.)
There is another sense in which McPike got special treatment. A 60-day unpaid suspension on top of a fine and license loss represents a far harsher penalty than most Wisconsinites would get for first-offense drunk driving.