DUI Accountability for Colorado Law Enforcement

Television station video cameras captured the arrest of a uniformed Colorado State Trooper, David Dolan, for suspicion of drunk driving last week.  A 21-year veteran of the State Patrol, Dolan was on duty, in full uniform, carrying a gun, and driving a patrol car at the time of the arrest.

Concerned drivers called 911 to report a patrol car driving erratically on Colorado 470, in southwest Denver.  Sherriff dispatchers originally transferred the 911 calls to the State Patrol, who then asked the Sherriff’s Department to respond to the calls, locate the patrol car, and check on the driver.  Deputies from the Douglas County Sherriff’s Department contacted Dolan shortly thereafter and placed him under arrest for Driving Under the Influence and prohibited use of weapons—under Colorado law, it is illegal to carry a firearm while intoxicated.

According to The Huffington Post, Dolan on his way from the Colorado Springs station to the State Patrol training academy in Golden.  Commenting on the incident, Col. James Wolfinbarger, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, stated that “Images like that tarnish our badges,” adding that he was “devastated by the arrest.”

Speculation about post-traumatic stress and other job stress-related consequences has been raised.  When asked about PSD as a possible explanation for the incident, Wolfinbarger said, “This is a very difficult job . . . .  These are clearly years of accumulated stress.”  Col. Wolfinbarger was also appreciative of the 911 callers, stating that the calls, “Helped keep a very bad situation from turning worse.”

Dolan is free on $1000 bail and was placed on unpaid leave, pending an internal investigation.

This incident comes only a month after another State employee was arrested in February for driving under the influence of alcohol.  District Attorney James Warren Wilson, the 22nd Judicial District’s top law enforcement official, was pulled over at about 10:15 a.m. on February 21, according to Steve Grazier of The Cortez Journal.

All told, Wilson faces five misdemeanor criminal counts: driving under the influence of alcohol; driving with an excessive amount of alcohol; possession of a weapon – a 9mm pistol – while under the influence of alcohol; an open container violation; and careless driving, according to Sgt. John Hahn, public information officer for the Colorado State Patrol’s headquarters.

The Cortez Journal further reported that, following the arrest, Wilson, was taken to Buena Vista Police Department, where Wilson was processed and had his blood drawn for chemical testing.  While officials would not give a specific blood-alcohol content, Sgt. Hahn did indicate that Wilson’s BAC report came back “above Colorado’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.”

If anything, the alcohol-related incidents involving Trooper Dolan and DA Wilson demonstrate that no one is above reproach.  Trooper Dolan now finds himself in a very public, likely career-ending situation.  In his 21-year career with the Colorado State Troopers, Dolan likely pulled over hundreds of drunk drivers, only to become one himself.  DA Wilson, a seasoned prosecutor and former deputy sheriff, now faces the same charges he likely brought against countless defendants.

Alcohol-related offenses affect everyone and can happen to anyone.  With DUI sentences becoming ever-harsher, it is refreshing to find that no one, not even law enforcement, can escape the penalties for committing these types of crimes.

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