Council hopes refinements in DWI enforcement will change perceptionsBar owners will be asked back to the council in the fall to see if perceptions have changed
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
While things got heated at points, in the end the Rosemount City Council and bar owners came to some agreement over concerns police have been too aggressive in their efforts to catch drunk drivers.
Police officers have been encouraged to spread enforcement throughout the city and try to lessen the perception that they are too concentrated downtown. But the council also asked the bar owners to try and work with them to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the roads.
To assess whether perception has changed the bar owners will be invited back to a work session in the fall.
Rosemount Police Chief Gary Kalstabakken started a March 14 workshop meeting by sharing the his departments review of stops. The department conducted the review to gauge whether officers are acting too aggressively.
According to a memo to the city council, the review did not find any indication DWI enforcement is being conducted in an illegal or unethical manner.
To review the night officers’ conduct, Lt. Jewel Ericson reviewed squad video of 333 traffic stops made during December of 2011 and January and February of 2012. The review included a significant number of stops made during those months, but not every stop.
Of those stops, officers conducted field sobriety tests 35 times. They made DWI arrests in 26 of the cases.
Kalstabakken noted that during the stops the officers were shown to be courteous and professional in their dealings with the public. During the meeting he showed video footage from six stops by five officers.
Kalstabakken said generally the police department does not have any problems with the bars in town. Several years ago there were a couple of high profile assaults at Shenanigans. Following the assaults, police staff met with the bar’s owner and the problems were addressed. Since there have not been recurring problems, Kalstabakken said.
Kalstabakken said the department does not set quotas or revenue goals when it comes to ticketing people.
A half-dozen people showed up to speak at Wednesday’s meeting. The first to speak was Pete Rothers. Rothers said compared with other cities, Rosemount is strict. He said he has been pulled over numerous times coming out of the Olympus 24 parking lot and has been followed by police squads a handful of other times. Rothers said he feels the police behavior is harassment.
While Rothers said he has no problem with Rosemount police officers getting drunk drivers off the road, he said their tactics in catching them are poor.
“My view is that it’s zero tolerance here,” he said.
Fellow resident Chris Dixon also said the perception in Rosemount is bad when it comes to driving through town at night.
“Perception is really the key,” said Dixon.
Carbone’s Pizza owner Dave Landgrebe said police cars sit in various places around the city and wait for people to drive by to pull them over.
When asked what he would like to see done he said, “Get away. There are 36 square miles.”
VFW manager Steve Poppler said officers have been polite when they have pulled him over. But he was concerned about the number of times and the way they go about pulling people over.
“It’s before that’s the problem,” added Rothers.
TOPS Pizza owner Markos Chouliaris spoke in favor of the police department. He said he likes to see the officers around and know that they are there if he needs them. Having had family members die in drunk driving-related accidents, Chouliaris said he had no issues with the police officers’ behavior.
Mayor Bill Droste noted that several of the bars that raised complaints are located within 50 yards of the police department, and by default are going to see police more often.
Council member Kim Shoe-Corrigan said she has been asking people in the community if they have the same perception and she has not heard complaints. She said while the bar owners were being vocal about their concerns the council also had to consider the concerns of all residents and their safety.
Poppler countered by asking when Shoe-Corrigan last drove during the late night hours. She responded last week, because she has high school kids.
The conversation got heated, and city administrator Dwight Johnson brought it back to center.
In his memo to the council Kalstabakken said he has encouraged officers to refine their patrol habits and to spend more time outside of downtown. Officers also have been encouraged to focus more on moving violations and on equipment violations that have obvious safety elements such as a burned-out headlights, brake lights or tail lights.
Kalstabakken told the council he hopes the refinements will lessen the perception that police are overly aggressive.
“We will continue to talk about improving everything as we always do,” he said.
Johnson suggested letting some time pass to let the police department make some changes and see if there is change in perception.
The bar owners will be asked to a fall work session to discuss the topic again.