The Case of the “Drunk” Cop


The story of Detective Ivan Davison has been all over the tabloids this week. Davison is being hailed as a “hero” in the press for shooting an armed assailant who allegedly shot at him early Sunday, while Davison was off-duty. Where the story gets a little thorny is what happened after Davison shot Stephon Allston. Because of an NYPD rule in effect after the Sean Bell shooting, any police officer that wounds or kills someone is required to take a Breathalyzer test. (The cops who shot Bell had been drinking at Club Kalua as part of an undercover sting operation.) Davison blew a .09 on the Breathalyzer, and the legal limit is .08. The detective was then placed on modified duty and stripped of his gun, to the outrage of both papers. The Post yesterday exclaimed, “PIN A MEDAL ON HIM, MIKE!” on the front page.

Yesterday, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly praised Davison for his bravery and reversed his suspension, reinstating the detective to full duty. Kelly even called Davison a hero, noting, “He did everything we could ask a police officer to do. We’re proud of him.” The Post declares “THREE CHEERS!” on page one today, with a photo of a smiling Davison. But this is not enough. The paper wants Davison to get a medal. The editorial page declares, “Show Us the Medal!”:

“As we said, punishing Davison for having a had a few drinks on his own time not only turned justice on its head, it also sent a dangerous message to other cops: If you’re off the clock and see a crime in progress–best not to get involved.

“Restoring him to active duty helps negate that message. Better still, give him that medal: Cops would then see that the city appreciates heroic action–and rewards it.”

The Daily News editorial page calls Davison “A welcomed hero” and praises the NYPD for coming to its senses, but notes that discretion is necessary, and that’s where this is a slippery slope:

“The commissioner used his authorized discretion wisely in deciding that the proper penalty here is a pat on the back. The rules must not be applied so as to discourage cops from taking necessary actions out of fear of punishment.

“At the same time, though, similarly wise discretion regarding the off-duty mixing of alcohol and guns is called for on the part of the NYPD rank-and-file.”

It’s amazing to see “common sense” prevail in this traditionally sensational medium.