FOP officer hopes for program to help troubled officers

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Police are investigating another officer charged with drunk driving, making more than a dozen cases around Indianapolis in just the past few years.

FOP President Bill Owensby isn't talking about specific officers' cases, but says job stress can be a big factor when officers get in trouble. Now, the union and the department are trying to do something new to help.

Police say an off-duty IMPD officer drove his motorcycle too fast down SR 37, passing a semi without signaling. He was about 20 miles over the speed limit.

Now the officer, a war veteran, is the latest to face drunk driving charges. He was allegedly twice the legal limit for blood-alcohol content, testing at .16 percent.

The August 2010 incident involving IMPD Officer David Bisard is the highest-profile case of officers caught allegedly driving drunk. He hit three motorcyclists, killing motorcyclist Eric Wells. Bisard is currently awaiting trial.

Over the last few years, about a dozen officers have been charged with DUI.

"When you work in a high pressure job you are always going to have cases that stick to you. That's hard to get out of your mind," says Kimble Richardson, a St. Vincent Hospital crisis counselor.

National studies, like one from the New York State University in Buffalo, say up to 20 percent of police officers could have alcohol problems linked to job stress.

Now, Indianapolis Public Safety Director Troy Riggs wants to take action and try to stop the increase in officer DUIs. Riggs wants to start a foundation that would help train police supervisors to recognize warning signs in officers and encourage the officer to ask for help.

"Everybody...every officer has got those things that they can recall that causes them to go to a dark place and it's finding that right coping mechanism to where they don't do something to excess," Owensby said.

Owensby says the union and the city are already doing that.

"This is a very macho environment that we work in and guys don't want to admit that they have issues from something that they've seen and done because they think it makes them look weak," he said.

Richardson says what really helps is a peer watching what's happening with a co-worker with an open ear.

"You could speak with them with confidentiality. They can help get you the professional help you need. So there wouldn't be judgment associated with it. That would be a great program," he said.

Owensby says that non-judgmental help is available. He has used it and reminds other officers by telling them his stories of tragedy and stress on the job.