Witness: Police Officer Drove Patrol Car to Bar, Was Drunk

By Jeff Raasch, Reporter

The VIP Lounge, 648 Eighth St., in Marion, is shown this afternoon, Friday, May 27, 2011. (Jeff Raasch/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Kelli Sutterman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – An internal investigation has been launched after accusations that a Cedar Rapids police officer drove his patrol car to a bar in Marion earlier this month.

Multiple sources have told SourceMedia Group the officer was drinking at VIP Lounge, 648 Eighth St., after driving a patrol car there on the evening of May 5. Police would only confirm an ongoing investigation into “inappropriate behavior” by an officer on that date in Marion.

Sgt. Cristy Hamblin on Friday said the officer does not face any criminal charges, but has been assigned administrative duties, such as data entry, pending the outcome of the investigation.

The bartender who was working May 5 told SourceMedia Group that customers saw the officer park the patrol car outside the bar. The customers told her two women got out of the back seat and followed him inside.

The bartender, who declined to give her name, said the three took a table in the back corner. When customers told her it was a police officer, she went outside and saw the patrol car parked on the street.

She said the officer, who was not in uniform, was intoxicated when he arrived. She said none of the three were causing problems, though, and she served them a pitcher of beer. She said they were at the bar about 45 minutes.

Police learned about the officer when a customer snapped a photo of the officer, she said.

“Somebody took pictures and said, ‘I don’t like shady cops,’ and went and drove to the police station to show them,” the bartender said.

Marion police soon arrived, she said.

“They bee-lined it to him, pulled him outside and (a police officer) drove the (patrol) car,” the bartender said.

The bartender said the women with the officer were regular customers. They stayed at the bar after the officer was taken away, and one started to cry, she said.

Hamblin declined to identify the officer, but she said he is one of seven K-9 unit officers with the department. She said the K-9 officers are allowed to take patrol cars home, since they are specially equipped for the dog, but are required to drive it directly to and from work.

Because the K-9 unit dog is linked with the officer, the dog is currently off-duty, Hamblin said.

It is the second embarrassing development for the Cedar Rapids Police Department this month. Undisclosed disciplinary action was taken against another officer after he was photographed asleep in his squad car on the morning of May 10. The picture was sent to local media and police, who confirmed its authenticity.

Police Chief Greg Graham had 30-minute sessions with all sworn employees this month, but Hamblin said she was unsure if recent behavioral issues were discussed.

“There’s nothing formal that’s been said, but informally I know our commanders have talked to their officers,” Hamblin said. “They’ve told them, ‘Hey, if there’s anything going on in your personal lives, let us know.’”

Cedar Rapids police were notified about the incident the same day, Hamblin said. She declined to say if the officer had already been interviewed, saying it was a confidential personnel matter. She said investigators would be talking to any witnesses they can.

“Any time there’s an incident with an officer, we investigate it just like a criminal matter, not because it was, but because there are things that are against our policies,” Hamblin said. “We hold ourselves to a high standard.”

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