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October 29, 2013

Chief: Cops need liquor licensing powers at Fiesta

Police pegged liquor-law violations as one of 11 issues that complicated efforts by police to keep the peace at Fiesta, suggesting that by next year officers be given authority to call hearings for businesses that break liquor laws.

The same police after-action report, approved by Mayor Carolyn Kirk last week, had addressed the controversial K9 response on the June 30 night of Fiesta when officers used muzzled police K9s to help disperse a crowd.

When looking at liquor service-related issues, the report seems to suggest that that evening’s “overcrowding” was due to area bars failing to disperse their patrons “responsibly.”

“At closing time, patrons are moved out and onto the sidewalks, and establishment personnel close and lock the doors behind them. This leaves the patrons gathering in their parking lots, in front of the business and on the street,” Chief Leonard Campanello wrote in the report, leaving police to “direct the detail to disperse them away and out of the area with no assistance from the establishment employees.”

As a solution to the overcrowding issues, Campanello suggested the local Liquor Board consider giving police officers the power to call for hearings when businesses fail to adhere to their licensing, by overcrowding for example, essentially making officers “agents of the board.”

“This will deter businesses from overcrowding for profit,” Campanello said.

John Rando, a member of the three-person liquor licensing board, said Monday that the board would be willing to look into anything that would help the police enforce liquor laws.

“I’m not sure of the mechanics of that and how that would work, but we are very much for doing what we can do to help the police. They always have their hands full at Fiesta, and we take it very seriously,” Rando said.

Campanello’s “recommended action” for next year’s Fiesta includes enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy for overcrowding at bars, by reiterating that establishments need to use clicker devices to keep accurate head counts of patrons. He also said police and bar employees need to “combine” efforts to help patrons safely leave the bar areas after closing time. K9s used to assist the effort should continue to wear muzzles unless the crowd becomes “assaultive/aggressive,” he said.

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