- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

The Fairfax County Police Department yesterday defended an alcohol enforcement program that sent officers into bars in the Reston area to arrest patrons for public drunkenness.
In a two-page statement released last night, police said plainclothes officers visited six restaurants each night over three nights between Dec. 8 and Jan. 3. They made 12 arrests, nine for public drunkenness and three for drug-related charges or obstructing justice.
The statement comes after The Washington Times reported the arrests on Tuesday. The Reston Times first reported the story.
Bar operators visited by police said officers provided no explanation for their actions and harassed sober patrons, taking them outside and administering field sobriety tests. Several of those found to be drunk were taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.
One bar manager said police took away a man dressed in a Santa Claus costume who exhibited no signs of drunkenness but was singing karaoke songs.
A bar owner said police tested a woman as she was drinking her second beer. The bar owner said the woman had arrived by cab and was leaving by cab.
Police said they have a "legal obligation" to enforce laws related to alcohol use, and said the nine persons arrested for public drunkenness were "heavily intoxicated."
"Contrary to some reports, police did not raid establishments dressed in SWAT gear, indiscriminately drag people off their barstools, force them outside and cart them to jail merely for having a cocktail," the statement said.
"Being drunk in public has always been illegal in Virginia and this type of enforcement has been utilized for over 20 years."
Police said four persons were arrested in their vehicle or on their way to their vehicle.
The statement said the police visits were prompted by "a series of escalating violent incidents at a few establishments that serve alcohol in the Reston area."
Police said they did not "arbitrarily" target the establishments that were visited; rather the locations were based on calls for service and arrest data related to alcohol use.
Police said they were called to the same few establishments as many as three times per night for reports of assaults, destruction of property and disorderly persons including one brawl involving more than 60 people and wanted to ensure that bar operators were not overserving customers.
The statement said police will meet with all the bar operators whose establishments were visited to educate them on compliance with alcohol-related laws.
"The enforcement of such laws is to clearly send a message to the community that we will not tolerate illegal use of alcohol, which is a major factor in creating deaths on our roadways and decreasing the quality of life in our neighborhoods," the statement said.

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