Armed with Prevention Strategies Police Raid Bars
In cities and towns across the United States Police Departments are enforcing their zero tolerance policies. Part of zero tolerance is a joint effort between local police departments and organizations like MADD, the Parent Teacher Association and “community prevention partnerships” that combat substance abuse, underage drinking and drunk driving.
According to Nancy Devaney director of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Prevention Partnership, community prevention partnerships play a unique role in making the public health and safety policies. “They create healthy and safe environments by implementing and supporting prevention strategies”, Mrs. Devaney stated.
Prevention strategies is a general term for policies designed to thwart substance abuse, drunk driving and the social consequences they wreak on families and their communities. The strategies range from alcohol awareness education in classrooms and parent-youth coordinated activities to increased police monitoring of areas that serve alcohol.
But some like Yale University Student Mike who asked to keep his last name confidential, think that some of the prevention strategies “have gone over-the-top. These parents get together with the police commissioners at the town council and next thing you know they are imprisoning their own children for drinking a beer”.
Mike was referring to a strategy known in New Haven as police “compliance inspections” a measure that police departments have been implementing to monitor individuals in bars and ensure that bars remain safe places for patrons.
However students like Ben Schenkel and Jaya Wen who attended an off-campus party at Yale with Mike two years ago see these policies in a different light.
In 2010 students had gathered for a party at Elevate, a second floor club in New Haven. A dozen police officers including two outfitted in riot gear and wielding assualt rifles were accompanied by state liquor control agents as they burst into the party. In a coordinated effort both law enforcement agencies raided the club as part of Operation Night Life, a city initiative to crackdown on violence, underage drinking and overcrowding at bars, according to the New York Times.
Five students were arrested during the raid. Their charges ranged from disorderly conduct to simple assualt. An officer used a taser on one of the students arrested. The police defended their use of force. According to a statement released by the New Haven Police Department; the student had assaulted three officers.
“I’ve never felt any danger in New Haven before this event,” Ms. Wen stated to Lisa Foderaro of the New York Times. “It was the police action that caused our feeling of being unsafe – of terror.”
In another effort to enforce alcohol laws at a bar in Virginia a joint operation of Fairfax County police officers and officials from the Virgina Department of Alcohol Beverage Control stormed Jimmy’s Old Town Tavern in November 2003 to conduct a sting on bartenders who were potentially “overserving” patrons. During this sting operation which involved two other bars in Fairfax County nine patrons were arrested for public drunkenness after failing sobriety tests. None of the bartenders working at the establishments during the sting were cited for violating responsible serving laws.
Lt. Tor Bennett who participated in the Fairfax raid described it to the Washington Post as a “low key operation signed to stop drunks before they get behind the wheel”.
Other patrons saw it differently. Kevin O’Hare felt the police were being “antagonistic” and saw the whole event as “borderline harassment, a real issue”.
With Rhode Island’s Roger Williams students back to school the Town of Bristol anticipates increasing numbers of visitors at its bars and restaurants downtown. While restaurantaurs and bar owners welcome the business, the Bristol Police Department has been taking measures to ensure compliance with underage drinking laws and practice a widely supported preventative strategy, police bar patrols.
On August 28th, Roger Williams students flocked to the establishments along Bristol’s Harbour to enjoy their first Thursday night out. They were met by eight officers of the Bristol Police Department who swept through two bars in downtown Bristol conducting ID checks of patrons suspected to be underage.
“At first I saw them at Aiden’s making their way through the crowd, checking IDs. Later that night I saw them again at Gillery’s commanding patrons to present identification”, said Gino, a student at Roger Williams who was at two of the bars police monitored last Thursday.
While no arrests for possession of alcohol by a minor or possession of a false form of identification were made, officers did arrest one patron, citing him for disorderly conduct after he allegedly took a photograph of a police officer conducting an ID check.
A witness, who asked to remain unnamed for fear of reprisals recounted, “He was just standing there taking a picture with his phone when police officers began yelling at him. Five or six of them surrounded him and took him outside. I was shocked the way the whole thing happenend.”
When the police were later questioned about what prompted the arrest, Patrolman Greco stated that he became confrontational and began swearing at police officers while they were patrolling the bar, on the look out for underage drinkers.
A friend accompanying the man arrested that night who asked to remain unnamed, retold the event as he witnessed it.”He raised his camera to photograph the police as they surrounded patrons to conduct ID checks. Before he even snapped the pictures a group of cops rushed him, knocking the phone from his hand before twisting his arms behind his back. It was like a pack of rapid animals trying to cover something up by eating their threat”.
Kathy Sullivan, a town advocate of prevention strategies was asked to comment on the incident. “These police are risking their lives to keep the kids safe. How did they know whether or not a picture of them taken by some drunk college kid is going to prevent them from enforcing prevention strategies.”