Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« David Blomstrom Probably Think... | It's Raining Horny Teenagers! »

Friday, September 21, 2007

Operation Sloppy Police Work

posted by on September 21 at 13:18 PM

Judging from the arraignments that are going on right now in the aftermath of “Operation Sobering Thought,” the cases against the bartenders and doormen from the SPD’s big sting seem to be falling apart at the seams.

Here’s how the sting worked: The undercover officers—pretending to have a “Girls Night Out”—had an underage woman use an ID of a slightly older woman (who looked very similar) to get into the club. Once inside the club, the group would order a round of drinks and take pictures of the doormen and bartenders they had fooled.

A few days later, having studied the pictures, the police would show up and get the names and addresses of the doormen and bartenders (under the ruse they needed help on a sex predator case). With that info, the police sent out warrants.

The first problem: The set up led cops to arrest the wrong people. For example, one doorman who got arrested, David Romano, is a 5’8” Hispanic guy. However, the account from the undercover officer in Romano’s incident report describes the doorman as a 6’2” blonde guy with a safety pin piercing in his left eyebrow. Whoops. The judge has already told Romano’s attorney to file a request for dismissal.

More important, it’s not clear that these charges will stick. Defense attorneys think the fact that the door men were fooled is significant. Being fooled with a look-a-like ID isn’t too convincing as a crime. Most crimes involve “intent”; ie, the criminal has to “knowingly” do something.

The police—defense attorneys for the club workers are likely to argue—need to show that doormen actually knew the minor was a minor. And they have to prove this “beyond a reasonable” doubt.

Given that the SPD used a young woman who looked like the slightly older woman on the ID, it’s going to be hard to prove doormen were up to no good.

Although, defense attorney Kirk Davis, who is working for some of the club folks, does acknowledge that the specific law about letting a minor into a place that serves booze does not address “intent.”

Meanwhile, the standard for issuing a liquor board violation (which is the way to bust bars) is lower. Liquor Board agents have to show that the doorman should have known the patron was underage: they didn’t look old enough; they didn’t look like the person on the ID. And they only have to show this with a lower legal standard—”preponderance of the evidence.”

So, we’re back where we’ve been all along: There are laws on the books to hold bars accountable. Let the liquor board do its job. And let the police focus on real problems rather than spending $52,000 in police hours duping local bars.

RSS icon Comments


I thought it was more than $52,000...

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 21, 2007 1:24 PM

Wow, that "sting" is starting to look dumber and dumber the more we learn about what actually took place. What the hell were the cops thinking? Why are they wasting precious time and resources on this crap? Their priorities are seriously fucked up.

Posted by jameyb | September 21, 2007 1:25 PM

How old was the "underage woman" used in the sting? And does she have no pride?

Posted by DOUG. | September 21, 2007 1:25 PM


Think about it; a bunch of cops got a free "Ladies Night Out" of boozing at local clubs, while some others no doubt racked up a bit of risk-free overtime, all on the taxpayer's (considerable) dime. Plus, they get to look like they're cracking down on a "serious" problem (at least initially), and they get a gold star or whatever from the Mayor and City Attorney to boot.

I mean seriously, aside from the apparently unanticipated public backlash, the aggressive pushback from the Nightlife Coalition, the sinking of the more onerous ordinance favored by Hizzoner, and what now appears to be a good chance for a complete judicial rejection of the charges - otherwise, it was "a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel."

Posted by COMTE | September 21, 2007 1:59 PM

I think it's pretty shitty that they went around flashing pictures of these guys to their employers saying they wanted to talk to them about a sex predator case. Sounds like slander or defamation of charactor, or something like that.

Posted by monkey | September 21, 2007 1:59 PM

People 2, Belltown condo slime and their fat mayoral protector 0

Posted by kinaidos | September 21, 2007 2:06 PM


I don't think they flashed pictures of any of the club employees, but rather they just used some random photos on the (clearly false) pretext of investigating a sex predator case in order to obtain those employees home addresses so they could serve the (suspiciously late mailed) court appearance papers.

Posted by COMTE | September 21, 2007 2:19 PM

You know why they used females, right?

Because clubs have established policies in place to attract women: cheap drinks, no cover, and no doubt a documented body of marketing strategy that says attractive (young?) women are good for business. I mean, everybody knows it's easier for women to drink underage than men, and it isn't just because door men are men.

That might be just sufficient to show intent -- or at least motive.

Posted by elenchos | September 21, 2007 2:32 PM

In my experience, SPD doesn't do any kind of police work other than sloppy.

Posted by Gitai | September 21, 2007 2:45 PM

I'm dumbfounded. I can walk 10 blocks to work (First Hill to Downtown) and witness at least 2 crack deals on a daily basis, yet the police are focusing on these crimes? Let's say that there were 5 officers involved with this "complex sting". What if, in lieu of said sting, SPD had them stand on corners in the Pike/Pine area between First and Fifth. They wouldn't have to do anything. Just stand there in a police uniform. That would prevent a hell of a lot more crime than "Operation Sobering Thought".

Posted by adam smith | September 21, 2007 3:25 PM

We need to bring back my good ol days. When I was 19 I worked in a lovely gay bar on Pike named the 1111. The SPD was paid a certain amount to look the other way. (it's in the Times archives) What has happened to my former homeland? Have you forgotten the palms that need to be greased?

Posted by spokevin | September 21, 2007 3:31 PM

it never ceases to amaze me that the average taxpayer isn't more upset about what incompetent, unimaginative, wasteful, inflexible and power-abusing asses cops (and their management) generally are. ever read "helter skelter"? manson was not the scariest thing in that book--it was the lapd! these guys are paid well, have great benefits, and the lawsuits and pointless "stings" they cause cost us even more--why don't we demand more?

Posted by ellarosa | September 22, 2007 11:22 AM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).