A Colorado police officer will not face any charges after being found drunk behind the wheel of his police cruiser last year. The local district attorney and the police department have admitted the incident was mishandled.
As reported by CBS4 Denver, last March, Deputy Chief Paul O’Keefe discovered Nathan Meier passed out behind the wheel of his cruiser outside with the car in gear. Although O’Keefe admitted to smelling alcohol on the officer, he chose to treat the incident as a medical emergency instead of a DUI.
Meier was brought to a nearby hospital and blood work confirmed his blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit. During an internal investigation, the officer admitted to drinking vodka in excess before starting his shift.
Colorado District Attorney George Brauchler conducted a thorough investigation, but almost a year later, he has concluded that no charges can be pressed against the allegedly impaired officer.
“At the end of the day, I think this guy beats the system and part of the system helped him do it,” he told CBS4 in a separate story.
Although Meier admitted in an investigation that he had been drinking heavily before getting behind the wheel, and the hospital blood test confirmed he was impaired, all of this is inadmissible for the DA’s investigation.
“Yes there is damning evidence that convinces me that this guy was drunk behind the wheel, but it’s evidence I don’t get to use in a criminal case against him because it was compelled or protected by physician-patient privilege,” Brauchler told the news outlet.
The attorney believes the incident was mishandled from the beginning, and had an officer found a civilian in the same circumstance then it would have been treated as a DUI.
Brauchler does not believe this was a police cover up.
“I think this was in the zip code of that though. I don’t believe it was handled properly,” he added.
Interim Police Chief Vanessa Wilson echoed many of the attorney’s sentiments. She told CBS that if it were a “regular citizen” found passed out behind the wheel of a running car then it would have been treated differently.
“That case in my opinion should have been handled as a DUI,” the interim police chief said.
An internal investigation was launched into why O’Keefe believed this was a medical emergency and not a DUI. Hours later, O’Keefe announced his retirement which ended the investigation.
Wilson says the entire incident has “destroyed our reputation.” It has led to police being berated by citizens and called “drunks” while on duty.
Jim Twombly, the Aurora City Manager, did not mince words when discussing the case.
“We got it wrong,” he told CBS.
Meier remains on the force, but has been demoted.