PHILADELPHIA – Police have been told to stub out their cigarettes permanently after a newspaper photograph showed an officer smoking as he helped lift a man in a wheelchair outside a burning building.
Police commissioner John Timoney issued a departmentwide ban on smoking while on duty or in uniform on Friday, saying smoking “may be perceived as unprofessional” and is potentially dangerous to both the officer and the public.
Under the new policy, an initial violation will draw a written reprimand, with more violations treated as failure to obey orders and conduct unbecoming an officer, a police spokesman said.
Both the New York City and Los Angeles police departments have strict policies barring uniformed officers from smoking in public.
The officer shown in the Philadelphia Inquirer photograph said he was taking a cigarette break when he saw two men struggling to get the man in a wheelchair over a fire hose. Lt. John Thompson, 50, said he rushed to help with the cigarette still in his mouth.
Richard Costello, president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, said he agreed with the idea of a smoking ban but would have preferred an education program and voluntary compliance.
“He’s doing it because he didn’t like the picture,” Costello said. “He would rather just hit them over the head with a policy.”
Police officials said Timoney also is considering a ban on officers using personal cell phones in their patrol cars because making calls from moving vehicles sets a bad example for other drivers.
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