City sees progress on DWI issuePolice chief Eric Werner met with liquor establishment to see if refinements made any difference
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
In February a group of bar owners and managers attended a city council work session to complain about what they perceived as unfair DWI enforcement by the police department.
After an investigation into the behavior of the officers, former police chief Gary Kalstabakken found that his officers were acting professionally and were within their purview when pulling motorists over.
However, to quell the perception that police were picking on the downtown bars, Kalstabakken offered that the department would refine its procedures to make more stops away from the downtown area and encourage officers to focus more on moving violations and equipment violations that have a more obvious safety element. At the time both sides agreed to meet again in the fall to see if the refinements had done any good in reducing concerns.
Since then, Kalstabakken has retired and Eric Werner has taken over as the city’s police chief. As such, the follow-up discussion was put on hold.
Werner has met with all of the bar owners and managers to see if things seem better and during a Dec. 12 work session he reported back to the council that they seemed to be.
While some reiterated their original concerns, Werner said the overall feedback showed that things were better. In his memo to the council, Werner stated that the licensed liquor establishment representatives have noticed the refinements and expressed support for the current police DWI detection practices.
The council invited bar representatives to the work session. Only VFW manager Steve Poppler showed up for the meeting but because of a long discussion about county transportation, he had to leave before addressing the council.
Poppler said he’s still frustrated that the perception in the community is that bars and police are in opposition. However, he hopes with new leadership at the department the bar owners and managers can work with police to make Rosemount safe but also a place where bars can do good business.
Calls to several other establishments that were vocal about the topic earlier this year were not returned.
From January through October the Rosemount Police Department had 107 DWI arrests. That is up from 2011 when the department had 106 for the whole year.
The average blood alcohol content of the drivers arrested is .149. The Minnesota state statute legal limit for intoxication is .08.
So far the current conviction rate in 2012 is 100 percent for the 86 settled cases. Werner said even if the department didn’t get another conviction, Rosemount’s conviction rate would be above the state average.
Werner said these numbers show the department is doing quality police work.
Additionally, Werner showed a map of the police stops and it showed stops were dispersed throughout the city.
Council member Jeff Weisensel said the information provided at the work session showed Rosemount has a quality police department.
“We have a great police force that is doing wonderful things in the community,” said Weisensel.
Mayor Bill Droste said he felt like the data provided good feedback about the issue and asked Werner to share the information with the businesses.
On Feb. 14, six representatives from local bars and restaurants attended a council work session to complain that excessive DWI enforcement was hurting business. During that meeting, representatives said they felt like their customers and employees were being harassed by police with unjustified stops.
The Rosemount Police Department conducted an internal investigation and found no evidence that officers were too aggressive or acting unethically.
Werner said most of the vendors expressed interest in finding ways to communicate and work more closely with police in the future.
City administrator Dwight Johnson said they have had some staff discussions about hosting training sessions for local establishments.
Weisensel said he would be supportive of any proactive measures the city can take on the issue.