IMPD enforcing zero tolerance drunk driving policy for citizens and officers alike
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind (Sep. 25, 2015)–An IMPD officer is suspended and stripped of his police powers after hitting a killing a pedestrian late Thursday night. Bernardo Zavalza, a seven-year veteran of IMPD assigned to the Northwest District, is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol.
“You’ve entered a Marion County safety sobriety check point. May I please see your license and registration,” said Sgt. Michael Duke, an IMPD DUI supervisor.
Friday night, nearly a dozen IMPD officers conducted a random sobriety checkpoint on the 5100 block of south Madison.
“Go ahead and have a good night,” Sgt. Duke told one of the drivers who was screened.
Most of the random stops ended within about 30 seconds. It doesn’t take these highly trained officers long to notice the signs of impaired driving.
The routinely scheduled sobriety checkpoint comes about 24 hours after IMPD leaders questioned the sobriety of one of its own.
Police say officer Bernardo Zavalas was off-duty but in his squad car when he hit and killed a pedestrian on Southport Road between Emerson and I-65.
“We are waiting to see what the prosecutor does and we will move forward,” said IMPD Chief Rick Hite.
Police reported that the seven-year-veteran showed signs of intoxication.
“We take this very seriously, we heard you in the past on these issues and we will continue to hold people accountable and be transparent in this investigation,” said Chief Hite.
An IMPD supervisor was dispatched to the scene where he requested the Fatal Alcohol Crash Team and Special Investigations Unit. The off-duty officer was transported to Eskenazi Hospital for a blood draw. Department policy states an employee faces dismissal is he or she operates a city-owned vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.02.
Chief Hite says the department alcohol policy is one of the stiffest in the country.
Officials with the police department stressed the investigation was done according to new protocol that was put in place after the David Bisard case. In 2010 officer Bisard killed one person and injured two others while driving his patrol car. He was convicted of drunk driving in addition to other charges.
“I think the policy was written and etched in stone after the Bisard case but more importantly we need to be accountable and held to a higher standard,” said Hite.
Sgt. Duke says he’s arrested officers before and won’t hesitate to do it again.
“If there is a police car driving by they can be pulled and tested at random. We are going to look at the driver and we are going to scrutinize them and if that officer is found to be intoxicated–that officer is going to jail just like anybody else,” said Sgt. Duke.
As of Friday afternoon police had not released the results of Zavalza’s blood alcohol test.