Wis. police: No-serve lists would decrease drunk incidents
The program acts as a way to stop officers from being tied up on calls to address the behavior of an intoxicated person
By Ashley Luthern
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
JANESVILLE, Wis. — The Janesville Police Department has joined several other Wisconsin law enforcement agencies in asking local taverns and liquor stores not to serve people who are habitually intoxicated.
Similar "no serve" policies exist in Green Bay and other areas, and a pilot program is planned for Milwaukee.
More departments likely will follow their example, said the executive director of the state's largest law enforcement group.
"We think these are very positive approaches to combat the widespread abuse of alcohol," Jim Palmer of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association said Wednesday.
"It is perhaps the beginning of a larger statewide trend, and I think you will see more departments explore this kind of approach."
Under Janesville's policy, an individual who has three or more alcohol-related incidents that result in a police call within a six-month period is placed on the no-serve list. If a person wants to contest the decision to be placed on the list, he or she can appeal to the city's Alcohol License Advisory Committee.
One person has opted to do that and has been left off the list until the committee can make a decision, said Deputy Chief Dan Davis. That leaves 10 people on the "no serve" list, which will be updated every six months.
Janesville police officer Joe McNally suggested the program as a way to stop officers from being tied up on calls to address the behavior of an intoxicated person, Davis said.
In many cases, the drunken person will not provide the name or phone number of an individual to provide a ride, so an officer often takes the person to get medical treatment before going to a detox center.
"It's not at all uncommon for those stays to be six to eight hours, an entire shift, and in extreme cases we've sat waiting for 20 hours for them to be medically cleared so detox will take them," Davis said.
"These people are consuming an inordinate amount of police and medical resources that we feel should be more readily available for people in the community who are more responsible."
Janesville's policy was modeled after similar ones in Green Bay and Madison, Davis said.
In Green Bay, any individual with three alcohol-related incidents — such as public intoxication, disorderly conduct or open container — in a one-year period is placed on the list, said Lt. Kevin Warych, of the department's professional standards division.
The list, created in 1996, is updated on an ongoing basis, he said.
The Tavern League of Wisconsin is checking into the legality of such policies, executive director Pete Madland said Wednesday.
As long as the lists are created objectively, the league is open to them, he said.
"If law enforcement can show it's a good, effective policy, we have no problem with that," Madland said. "Our members don't want to make a living off serving habitual drunkards."
But he added that no-serve lists can put bartenders in a tough position.
"Someone can grow a beard, change their appearance and that puts a little pressure on the owners," Madland said. "If (owners) are making a good-faith effort and if they have a slip-up, I hope that they're not punished."
Davis said under the new Janesville policy, tavern or store owners generally wouldn't be penalized if they sold alcohol to individuals on the list. If there were repeated problems at the same bar or store, the department would try to work it out with the owner before asking for any type of sanctions, he said.
Milwaukee police also are developing a pilot no-serve program in District 3, which is located in the central city and includes the Concordia and Avenues West neighborhoods,but it has not been implemented yet, said District 3 community prosecutor Chris Ladwig.
The no-serve program would follow the basic format of similar policies at other departments in the state and is only one part of a larger plan to reduce public drunkenness in the city, he said.
The Milwaukee program has taken awhile to develop because the city is much different from Green Bay and other, smaller departments, Ladwig said.
The no-serve list concept would be difficult to implement countywide given the number of drinking establishments and liquor stores, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. said through a spokeswoman.
Clarke said he believes the best way to address is the program is in the court system, so alcohol-related offenders, particularly repeat offenders, don't receive lenient sentences.
Copyright 2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel