Help me compell my local police department to enforce the law
September 8, 2007 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Can I make my town police department enforce the drunk & disorderly conduct law?

I live in a small town, and my neighbors and I are often woken up by loud drunks leaving the nearby bar at closing time. Most of the time we have to put up with yelling and screaming, sometimes there are fights, and I'm quite sure that some of the people revving their engines and squealing their tires are drunk driving.

We live in an otherwise VERY QUIET neighborhood, with lots of families with small children. Our town police department does not seem interested in addressing the issue (sometimes they don't even come when we call in a noise complaint). They'd rather hang out on the main road and issue speeding tickets.

What are my options here? Is there anything I can do to compel our small-town police force to enforce the drunk & disorderly conduct law that is on the books, maybe even arrest a few people to send a message that the behavior won't be tolerated?
posted by man on the run to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Write, call, stop by the police chief and elected officials, the beat cops go where the shiny shields tell them. If you make it an issue with the chief and mayor/council members you'll make it an issue for the beat cops.

This is especially effective when they campaign for re-election. It doesn't take many people in a small town not having their issues addressed for it to become important to the elected officials and the chief of police.
posted by iamabot at 11:50 AM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would suggest sending a nice, detailed letter that indicates your frustration with your local police to the State Attorney General's office.

If this letter is signed by other voters/citizens from the neighborhood it might trigger some sort of positive action.
posted by cinemafiend at 12:29 PM on September 8, 2007

Take iambot's advice and find sympathetic neighbors who can repeat this behavior as well.
posted by mmascolino at 12:30 PM on September 8, 2007

Try contacting the local media, often times a bit of publicity if what the authorities need to make them act. Also, try complaining to the local licensing authority. If they get enough complains and it threatens the bars license then the bar may start trying to be a better neighbour.
posted by zaphod at 12:50 PM on September 8, 2007

What kind of town government do you have? Do you have aldermen, a town council, a town meeting, a mayor? You could talk to the chief of police, but also consider talking to other elected officials if the chief of police doesn't do anything about it.

If your neighbors are also concerned, write a group letter and send it to the police chief requesting a meeting. If that doesn't help, tell the local paper about it.
posted by alms at 1:15 PM on September 8, 2007

and the first time you see them dealing with it, send a cake or something small nice over to the following shift thanking them for their community service. works wonders.
posted by krautland at 1:41 PM on September 8, 2007

Thanks for the advice thus far, I've drafted a letter to the chief and town manager, and I do have neighbors who plan to lodge their own complaints.

Let me clarify my question a little bit by putting it this way: "Are the police legally bound to enforce the laws that are on the books?" and "What consequences can they face if they fail to do this?"

Thanks MeFites!
posted by man on the run at 1:42 PM on September 8, 2007

Let me clarify my question a little bit by putting it this way: "Are the police legally bound to enforce the laws that are on the books?" and "What consequences can they face if they fail to do this?"

As to the first question: generally, no; law enforcement has discretion in what laws they enforce the laws.

As to the second question: none, except the possible effect of publicly shaming and embarrassing the department and creating a political problem for the department.

I would suggest that you get a video camera, and film some of the obnoxious behavior through your window, and then send it to your state representative or city council member, who will likely have "pull" with the police department.

Unfortunately, though, I think you may be stuck with a certain amount of obnoxiousness. This sort of crap is why it's usually required that there be public notice given, and a chance for neighbors to speak against it to the issuing body, prior to the issuance of a liquor license.
posted by jayder at 3:26 PM on September 8, 2007

I think I meant something like, "has discretion in how strictly they enforce the laws."
posted by jayder at 3:27 PM on September 8, 2007

You could always buy a bullhorn and yell through it at the drunks until somebody calls the cops on you. Then you can direct them towards the real problem.
posted by tehloki at 4:23 PM on September 8, 2007

Get a white noise machine and only call the cops when you witness someone being hurt.
posted by brujita at 9:59 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Law enforcement has discretion for a reason. While I'm fanatical about getting a quiet night's sleep, if the options are:

* ticket people for yelling and squealing tires
* arrest them for speeding, reckless driving, or DUI

Then please yes let the cops be more concerned with the greater (community) harm, and meting out the consequences harsh enough to get the offenders' attention.

Sucks for you, definitely, but if you look at it from their perspective it's not a given that they're shirking responsibility. Instead of approaching it as if they are, call your local precinct and have a friendly chat with the officer responsible for your neighborhood. Invite him or her down for a neighborhood meeting, for you all to explain why you feel this godawful nuisance needs to be a higher law enforcement priority, and for him/her to explain why it hasn't been thus far. Betcha this ends with the bar owner getting a stern warning to keep the customers in line.

You could also start complaining to the liquor licensing board. Licenses have been known to be suspended or even revoked because the neighbors bitched enough. That gives the owner ample motive to solve this problem any way possible.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:12 AM on September 10, 2007

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