Raid similar to one at Yale is unlikely at Penn

Amid excessive force allegations in New Haven, DPS says it doesn’t use targeted alcohol raids

· October 6, 2010, 4:37 am   ·  Updated October 6, 2010, 12:00 am

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Early Saturday morning, five Yale University students were arrested and one Tasered when the New Haven Police Department broke up a party at a nightclub. The raid was part of an initiative to curb underage drinking in New Haven, Conn., clubs, and has prompted questions over whether police used excessive force.

In the face of the raid, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush emphasized that although Penn Police enforces the drinking age, students will not be subject to targeted alcohol raids.

“We opt for education,” Rush said, indicating that the Division of Public Safety would respond to concerns about underage drinking by working with the Undergraduate Assembly and promoting alcohol-education programs.

According to Rush, the last liquor establishment DPS took action against was the Koko Bongo bar, previously at 3801 Chestnut St., because the establishment generated numerous “quality of life” violations — including overcrowding, underage drinking and violence.

Such “nuisance complaints” are the primary issue of interest for the Philadelphia Police Department’s Operation Pressure Point, an operation designed to reduce crime rates in “trouble areas of Philadelphia,” explained Lieutenant Frank Vanore of the PPD.

Vanore explained that Philadelphia’s Citywide Vice Unit performs “bar checks” during weekend nights to ensure that bars are in compliance with building inspection codes, alcohol licensing laws and narcotics law enforcement.

“Underage drinking is one of the things we check for, but [it’s] not our only concern,” Vanore said, emphasizing that a club’s owners, not its patrons, are the primary targets of bar checks.

While targeting underage drinking through raids is unlikely to occur at Penn, Director of the Office of Alcohol and other Drug Initiatives Julie Lyzinski wrote in an e-mail that the University uses Alcohol Monitors, part-time staff that patrol campus during late-night hours from Thursday to Saturday, to “identify unregistered events on campus and collaborate with [Penn Police] to manage and respond to high risk or crisis situations.”

In the event of a high-risk situation involving law enforcement, Rush advised students to simply follow instructions to avoid escalation of tension.

“Even if you’re underage, just obey what you’re told because a citation for underage drinking is not the end of the world,” Rush said. “But assault of a police officer is much worse.”

Legal experts, however, advised students to know when to draw the line between obeying orders and insisting on individual rights. American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania staff attorney Valerie Burch explained that while students should never resist arrest in any way, individuals can protect their rights by not consenting to a police search or speaking without a lawyer present.

“Always ask if you’re free to leave. If they say no, then you’re technically under arrest and should be guarded about what you say,” Burch said.

In implementing Operation Pressure Point and bar checks, the PPD has not received complaints regarding police brutality, Vanore said.

If ever an allegation of police brutality were brought against the PPD, “Internal Affairs would thoroughly investigate all evidence,” he said.

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