Rookpolitie moet van alcohol afblijven
Stel, je bent opsporingsambtenaar in Delaware, belast met de handhaving van een rigide rookverbod in de horeca. Bij een bezoek aan een gemelde overtreder moet je je voordoen als een gewone barbezoeker om in staat te zijn de euvele overtreders op heterdaad te betrappen…
Wat doe je dan? Wat doet elke barbezoeker? Hij neemt een drankje! Maar in Delaware mogen de rookinspecteurs sinds deze week alleen nog een biertje bestellen, maar niet opdrinken!
No drinks for Delaware bar snoops
By Joe Rogalsky, Staff writer
DOVER – State investigators who enforce the indoor smoking ban can no longer drink alcohol while inspecting establishments.
Kevin Charles, chief of the Division of Public Health unit that looks into possible violations and issues fines, said the policy changed after a March appeal hearing where an agent’s alcohol consumption became an issue.
After the ban went into effect Nov. 27, Mr. Charles said, state investigators could drink a beer or other alcoholic beverage if they were inspecting an establishment such as a local bar where drinking was expected.
The rules changed after the Extreme Night Club in Dover raised the issue in its unsuccessful appeal of a $100 fine.
“We decided that we should adjust,” Mr. Charles said.
“We do not want to make the staff the focus. The law is the focus. We want to take the heat off of our staff as much as we can.”
In Extreme’s case, investigator Brian Lance Caulk said he consumed one alcoholic beverage while at the club Jan. 4 “to fit in.”
Susan Kirk-Ryan, the Wilmington attorney who served as the hearing officer, wrote in her findings released May 14 that it was “questionable for a DPH employee to drink in the facility he was observing,” but the alcohol did not impair Mr. Caulk’s judgment.
Ms. Kirk-Ryan also ruled that a “disdainful” sign displayed in the club reading “Because Delaware Sucks Ass You Are Not Allowed to Smoke” indicated management’s permissive attitude toward smoking.
Investigators’ alcohol consumption also became an issue in the successful appeal filed by Bull Dozer’s Saloon in Smyrna.
Mr. Caulk testified in the hearing that he had one whiskey and Coke at Bull Dozer’s while observing a smoking ban violation Jan. 9.
Earlier that night, Mr. Caulk said, he had partially consumed another whiskey and Coke at a different establishment.
Extreme Night Club co-owner James Callahan argued the fine should be overturned because the investigator had been drinking, made contradictory statements on how many patrons allegedly violated the ban and could have confused tobacco smoke with the club’s “theatrical fog.”
“We thought we put a pretty good case forward,” Mr. Callahan said.
Gregory B. Patterson, a spokesman for Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, said the governor had no comment on the policy change. Gov. Minner strongly supports the ban, which she says will improve Delawareans’ health.
Mr. Charles said although investigators need to order alcohol sometimes to blend in at an establishment where violations may occur, having a drink would expose them to undue criticism and raise questions about their reports of violations.
Now, Mr. Charles said, the agents can buy a drink but not consume it.
Investigators often purchase an alcoholic beverage, he said, walk around the establishment to observe and then pour the drink into a bathroom sink.
“We feel it is best that we not put our staff in the position of consuming alcohol during their work hours,” Mr. Charles said.
“We told them they can purchase alcohol but not consume alcohol.”
When investigating restaurants, Mr. Charles said, agents have been instructed they do not need to buy alcohol to fit in with the crowd because buying a meal will work. In other instances, he said, the agent uses his or her discretion.
“Our expectation is that our staff who are investigating undercover will make an attempt to blend in and be part of the crowd,” Mr. Charles said.
“It is difficult for someone to walk into a bar and order a soda and not draw attention to themselves. They do what they need to do to blend in.
“If it is a place where you can walk in and order a Coke or a water with lemon, you do that. If you have to order a beer to blend in, you order a beer to blend in.”