It’s been nearly a month since Anchorage police began searching bars for people who were a bit too drunk, aka the “drunk plus.”
Through Alaska statue 04.16.040 Access of Drunken Persons to Licensed Premises, police enter bars in plainclothes and identify those they believe are intoxicated, eventually charging them with drunkenness on a licensed premise.
It’s clear that this plan has not been thought out all the way, and since the issue came to light in a Jan 9 in the Anchorage Daily News, we imagine that the police department has already received plenty of phones calls from pissed off people.
So in this editorial we do not plan to mock the police department or linger over every possible logical fallacy of these sting operations, but seriously consider the role of police officers and the needs of Anchorage.
The Northern Light believes that police exist not only to enforce law, but also to serve the needs of the community. As of now, this plan does not benefit the community. We remain unconvinced that it is beneficial to the community because of flaws in the program and a lack of publically available information.
The ADN article entitled “Police target bar drunks and employees who serve them,” leads us to believe that many of these stings occur during the weekend. The article quotes a Sgt. Mark Rein, saying that violent crimes increase at bars during the weekend. It is unclear from the quotes whether stings also increase during the weekend, but judging from his quote and indeed the greater bar population during the weekend, it seems probable.
If so, why the weekend? Chronic inebriates may do “weekends,” but really, for them every day is a weekend. As they are the ones who truly need to stop drinking, a spike in stings seems unwarranted. College students and those who are forever young—they do weekends, but only weekends, because during the weekday—they work. For these social drinkers, it seems unwarranted to arrest them for being “drunk-plus” at a bar, mainly because it is not interfere with their daily lives, and unless they’re causing fights, it does not interfere with anyone else’s bar experience.
While it is technically illegal to be drunk on a bars premises, laws only have force with enforcement. There are some dumb that are now enforced: it is illegal in Alaska to intentionally avoid walking on pavement cracks or steal snow from a neighbors garden to make a snowman (though if that snow is used for an igloo, the theft is acceptable). Not all laws are enforced because some laws just don’t make sense in certain situations. A bar is a place to drink; in the vast majority of cases this arrangement works fine.
Of course, it’s possible the police have a several days during the week schedule. In which case, the above is irrelevant, but that simply highlights another flaw of this operation: not enough information on how it is conducted is available.
For example, in arresting bartenders, how can you track the bartender who is “indulging” the way-too-drunk? People do like to bar hop. If someone gets 5 drinks from Darwin’s Theory, then 1 drink from the Anchor Pub, is it fair for that the Anchor Bartender be arrested, or possibly loose his job and/or TAP card?
Who is paying for the police officer’s drinks? Do they buy anyone else a drink? Can we know their preferred spirits?
Bars can be hectic, and it’s quite possible that a busy bartender will not notice someone is intoxicated, while a policeman, calmly observing from the sidelines, will have noticed. The police seem to know the limitations of this pursuit, which is why they always include the word “try” in their descriptions of the procedure.
Because of this affront, Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailer’s Association (CHARR) plans to spend some $100,000 on defending itself. It seems that that money could be used for better purposes, such as paying for cabs for the “drunk-plus” or even counseling that encourages self-control of one’s alcohol intake. Whatever the case, it would be money spent that would objectively and immediately benefit the community.
Going undercover is a serious business. In a sense, you are lying to someone. You are not giving someone the chance to act as they would in front of a police officer. Going undercover is inherently unjustified, and can only be warranted if the police officer would be in danger while in uniform, or if the information could be acquired in no other way. The Northern Light is not convinced that this undercover work is necessary, beneficial, or legitimate to Anchorage citizens.