Live by a higher code

  • Published
  • By Master Patrol Officer Steve Pre' tat
  • Great Falls Police Department
As an 11 year veteran of the Great Falls Police Department and a retired Air Force member, I have been charged with the daunting task of trying to reduce alcohol-related crime in the city and at Malmstrom Air Force Base. I have found this to be an uphill battle to say the least. From trying to speak to the Airmen on base to working with the students at the high schools, I find the same response day in and day out. "Cops should go after the real criminals" or "Don't you have better things to do than screw with us?" The answer is the same either way you look at it. We are doing what you pay us to do ... enforce the laws of the State of Montana ... equally. 

No one would challenge the idea that alcohol isn't a contributing factor to crime. And before you begin thinking I am a prohibitionist or believe that people should not drink, you could not be more wrong. It's the abuse of alcohol that gets our attention and not that we're looking, it's just obvious. Last year, we wrote more than 720 minor in possession of alcohol tickets and those are just the ones we caught. The actual use number is probably significantly higher. Some were caught driving, some at house parties, some running from house parties and a few at the bars. We cannot turn a blind eye to underage drinking and house parties because of lessons-learned in the past with devastating consequences. 

The local bars and taverns have been wonderful to work with in regards to checking IDs and watching for minors. Plain-clothes officers spend countless hours doing bar walk-throughs in the community looking for underage drinkers and fake IDs used to purchase alcohol. If found, they are arrested on the spot and removed from the business. The days of pouring out the alcohol and letting the offender leave have passed. In addition, our bars and taverns are protecting $500,000 liquor licenses and do not want or appreciate the underage drinker jeopardizing their livelihoods. 

It's the same old rhetoric, but just told a different way. However, over the next few years, you're going to see some changes. Not changes based on our zero-tolerance level of enforcement, but changes in the way we plan on working with you, not against you, in dealing with alcohol-related issues and "not having enough to do around here." There will be some pretty tremendous opportunities soon so be sure to check the paper frequently. The kick-off of a program this summer is sure to knock your socks off. In the meantime, reflect on what it took to get to where you are. Think about the days of basic training, the sacrifices you made, the technical schools you've been to and the career path you're laying out ahead of you. Consider pride and honor when you put on that uniform, but remember when your day is over and the uniform has come off, the expectation is the same ... "Live by a higher code."