Cop questions ABC op at Harris Teeter
Just wanted to thank you for the article ["Terror at Harris Teeter: Indignation rises over ABC underage drinking op"]. I read the story with special interest because I retired as a police sergeant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last year. I also have a 20-year-old daughter off at college who sings in the choir, isn't a drinker, gets good grades, and would probably be the one sent to buy sparking water and ice cream for the late night party. I know this, because sometimes I get the near-midnight phone call to ask me something as she and a friend are making yet another run to the store.
My questions after 23 years of police work are:
- Why was she not stopped and investigated before she got into her car? This is police work 101. By not stopping her right there on the sidewalk, before she got into the car, they allowed her access to guns and the immense power of the car itself.
- Although it is de rigueur on CSI and all the hit police dramas, plainclothes detectives are a singularly poor choice to do such operations. In Albuquerque, we would have had two patrol cars just out of sight, ready to remove any doubt that this was indeed a bona fide police operation.
- I have not seen any story stating that the store itself was then subjected to a raid of eight plainclothes officers, screaming and jumping on the counter. If the girl supposedly bought beer there, wouldn't it stand to reason that the store that sold it deserved the similar response?
- In Albuquerque, the approach is to send in 19- and 20-year-old service aides to attempt to purchase alcohol, with no fake ID, no scam of any type. Officers watch from outside. If the clerk or server sells the alcohol, then the officers walk inside and cite them. Enough violations place the liquor licensee's premises under risk of losing their license.
- Last, and most creepily, had the girls legally possessed a pistol and shot their accosters, or had deliberately run over one in an attempt to escape, they would have probably had a workable defense due to their innocence and the absence of uniformed officers in marked cars. Albuquerque and many other jurisdictions advise people that unmarked cars may not pull them over.
The burden is, and must always be, upon the officers who have hidden their identity, never upon the innocent citizen, legally forced to believe the claim of any person who suddenly assumes the full power of the state. Officers knocking at front doors are well trained to tell the disbeliever to please call 911 for confirmation that they are indeed police officers. Plainclothes detectives are well trained in that they had damned well better obey the commands of uniformed officers if they don't want to get shot by accident. Why? Because even other officers may become confused. It's shameful that this happened to a 20-year-old girl. Keep the heat on.