In a time when law enforcement and the public are increasingly wary of each other across this great country, it is refreshing to meet with local business owners and craft a mutually agreeable solution to a problem which was starting and nip it before it got out of hand.
By Pat Merriman
Dunn Co. State’s Attorney
You see, this past year, a handful of, mostly out-of-town, miscreants were beginning to make Dunn County a dangerous place for our local citizens. Trouble at the local watering hole, a party, nearby gas station or even driving down a street when the few, irresponsible, frankly, idiots, were imbibing too much and then engaging in illegal narcotics, resisting arrest, weapons, vandalism, property damage, threatening, harassing, fighting and hurting others who had the misfortune to be anywhere near these clowns. And, law enforcement has enough to do without having to babysit these guys. And, finally, an injured paramedic, who was simply trying to help one of these guys and, a young man, at an after-hours party, getting his lights punched out for no apparent reason and, enough was enough! How to nip the nonsense without ruining everyone else’s good time? There was the rub!
And, these people cause a lot of problems for our bar owners too! There is civil dram shop liability for over-serving and even potential criminal charges against not only the drunk but, also, particularly, where a bartender had over-served a patron or, served an ineligible person, against the server and the bar itself. Under the North Dakota Century Code, Title 5-01, retail liquor licensees (both city, county and state) have dram shop liability to any person injured by an intoxicated individual who harms them after drinking at their establishment. There are also other civil penalties against their local (city or county) and state liquor licenses. And, criminal charges for licensees who are also prohibited from delivering alcohol to a habitual drunkard, incompetent person, or an obviously intoxicated individual. City attorneys (city licenses), states attorneys (city, county or state licenses) and the Attorney General are each tasked with investigating, prosecuting and conducting hearings for any violation of the state’s alcoholic beverage laws too. You can’t drink on your 21st birthday until after 8 AM that day. And, severe restrictions exist for persons under age 21 to even be on those premises. Jail time can be up to 365 days for some offenses and fines can be as high as $30,000 per occurrence. Serious business!
So, at the end of the day, there was trouble brewing afar on the horizon if the local establishments were not willing to cooperate. And, then something great happened. The local bar owners were just as concerned about the problem as we were. You see, if they banned a miscreant from their establishment and, then the drunk/troublemaker simply drove down the road to another bar, the guy wasn’t just a problem for the first bar that banned him. He was a problem for everyone running a bar in the area and trying to obey the law too. So, when I sent out a letter requesting all the owners to attend a 2-hour training session and open forum at the High Plains Cultural Center on November 5th, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My experience with North Dakotans was that they can be pretty stubborn and didn’t much like the cops telling them how to do their business. So, imagine my surprise when the place was crowded. Unlike Ferguson, MO, the public was going to pitch in and help. Enough was, indeed, enough.
After Rebecca Byzewski, Coordinator of Safe Communities/Prevention out of Dickinson, finished the server training, we opened up the floor to discussion. And, frankly, it was a good discussion. I had been a bartender and bouncer when I put myself through college back in the day, so, I had a pretty good grasp of their problem. If you don’t know who the rogues are, before they came in your bar, your employees are reacting to danger and, that’s a major problem. Having cops regularly enter your establishment is also bad for business. No one had really come up with any solution because we were all waiting for someone else to speak up. At the meeting, Chief Braathen and I had a rough idea of what we wanted to implement. Something like Las Vegas—you get barred from one establishment, you’re barred from all Dunn County bars for the same period of time. From their perspective, bar owners wanted to know WHO these guys were so that they could make sure their servers refused service to them. Oh, OK, simple logistics and planning. We can handle that. So, commencing on December 1st, Operation All for One is now a reality.
When a deputy or officer is called to an incident where one of the local bars is even remotely involved: 1) the arresting officer will notify his administration of the event; 2) administrative personnel in the arresting agency’s department will “Cc” the local bar OWNERS a copy of the citations, arrest affidavit and mug shot of the offender(s) when they email that information to my office for the offender’s initial appearance; and 3) when the 24/7 program SCRAM (or no alcohol consumption) is ordered as a condition of bail or probation, my office will notify the bar owners and provide a copy of the mug shot. That way the bar is provided with all the public information available on the offender(s)/ineligible drinkers as quickly as it can be disseminated to protect them. And, each law enforcement agency spreads the burden of notifying the bar owners so that everyone works together.
Oh, yeah, and fake ID’s…there’s a new scanner on the market (and the local bars have access to them) which is going to make it impossible for you to pose as an adult. If you don’t believe me, give it a try. Also, remember, the bar is authorized to seize the bogus ID and you WILL be charged by my office with the offense. It’s hard to be cool when you’re wearing that SCRAM bracelet as part of your bail/probation, there, dude! And, for anyone concerned about their “privacy”, be advised that the Century Code makes each and every one of these items an Open Record, so, if one doesn’t want one’s face posted in the bars for being a trouble maker, don’t drink and act up, come in the bar wearing your ankle bracelet, or try to pass off a fake ID! Easy peasy!
In discussing this with the Breakfast Posse, they are glad to see something being done because, frankly, they view these places as THEIR watering holes, an integral part of our community, and, they don’t want out-of-town thugs causing trouble so that they can’t have a beer, play cards or take their spouse for a night out without fear of being mugged. And, in particular, to Ken Roshau at the HPCC, Eric Kehr at the Buckskin, Bob Brown at the 2 7/8’s and Greg Armitage at the DC Pub & Grub, gentlemen, I want to personally extend a heart-felt “Thank you” to each and every one of you for helping implement this “All for One” program! And, for those few nay sayers, who will, inevitably, grouse about it, put the blame where it belongs for once—not on the cops, on the few, irresponsible idiots who always seem to mess up everything for everyone.