Panhandle Regional SPF SIG
Law Enforcement Interviews
A total of nine Law Enforcement officers have been interviewed. Seven were local law
enforcement personnel (Sherriff or Chief of Police) from individual counties. Two were
State Patrol officers who serve multiple counties.
Eleven local (6) officers and State Patrol (5) officers attended community meetings.
County Attorney offices were represented at three community meetings. These
representatives of law enforcement spoke openly about the issues and challenges law
enforcement face. Where this information is specific to questions in the Law
Enforcement Interview format it is included in this summary, rather than the community
Efforts were made to interview officers who had not attended county meetings.
The Law Enforcement Interview in the Nebraska Community Assessment Tool Kit was
used as the foundation for the interview. Questions were added based on the responses of
law enforcement officers who were present at community meetings.
Questions that were added included:
What alcohol related problems do you see in your community?
What factors do you believe are causing this?
What challenges does Law Enforcement face when enforcing alcohol related
Are there specific laws which present a challenge in enforcing alcohol misuse?
Alcohol Related Problems in Community # of Responses
Minors in Possession 9
Driving While Intoxicated 3
Domestic Violence 3
Sexual Assaults 1
Binge Drinking (18-25 year olds) ( house parties, fights ) 3
Adult Consumption/Public Drunkeness 2
Procurement for Minors 1
With the exception of two counties local law enforcement officers focused their response
on MIP’s throughout the interview. Many local interviewees, the State Patrol and
participants at community meetings noted that there is more political/community “push
back” regarding enforcement of adult violations. In Sioux and Banner Counties (large
geography and small populations) the predominant enforcement issue is young people
from other counties driving into the area to drink.
Panhandle Regional SPF SIG Assessment 1
Law Enforcement Summary
Factors # of Responses
Adults/Parents Procurement for Minors 4
Adults Community Use/Acceptance of Alcohol Use 4
Number of Bars/Late night opening of bars 1
College Student Partying Perception 1
Retail Sale To Minors 0
Two sparsely populated counties with large geographic areas (Sioux and Banner) each
have only one establishment which sells alcohol. Law enforcement notes this as a
Number of Alcohol Related Offenses in the Community
In addition to data that is available the local officers interviewed estimate that alcohol is
involved in between 70% and 90% of all crimes not cited as alcohol offenses (domestic
violence, public disturbance, thefts, etc).
Undetected Alcohol Offenses
All of those interviewed indicated that they believed a large number/percentage of
alcohol related offenses go undetected. The reasons cited for this include:
Size of Force: Limited number of available law enforcement officers. At least
four counties/communities have only one officer on at a time. Two only have one
officer. All agencies reported being short staffed.
Technology: Use of cell phones and scanners to avoid/elude law enforcement.
This is both an adult and a teen age behavior. It presents a particular problem with
teenagers who are drinking and driving (“booze cruise,” “trippin,” “pasture
Size of Parties: When arriving at large college or rural MIP parties a number of
young people are able to “get away” simple because of the magnitude of the party
and the limited number of officers.
Geographic Area: The size, topography and rural nature of many Panhandle
counties contribute to the number of undetected offenses.
Laws enforcement notes that the evidence of these parties and undetected alcohol
offenses is seen the next day in property damage (highway signs, mailboxes, fields ripped
up, etc) and bottles on the side of the roads and highways.
Officers Assigned Specifically to Alcohol Related Offenses or Issues
The Nebraska State Patrol has one person assigned specifically to alcohol related
issues in the Panhandle.
No other agency in the Panhandle has the capacity to assign an officer.
Many agencies do apply for Nebraska Highway Safety grants which afford the
opportunity to conduct special events. These may occur in conjunction with the
Nebraska State Patrol.
Panhandle Regional SPF SIG Assessment 2
Law Enforcement Summary
All agencies reported that officers receive the standard training at law enforcement
academies. In addition most agencies encourage continued training such as Drug
Recognition, Breathalyzer, DUI, Alcohol Lab Training, Certified Data Master Training
and Certification, and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing.
As agencies face continued budget shortfalls this training is most likely to be
attended if it is in the Panhandle. Many agencies cannot afford travel time and
costs to send people to the eastern part of the state.
There is not commonality of the type of training placed as a priority in each
county or between counties.
Some instances were cited where lack of training did result in cases being tossed
Sobriety Check Points
Sobriety Check Points are not held in the Panhandle. Vehicle safety checks are held
which may result in alcohol related arrests. The State Patrol in the Panhandle notes that
in 2008 Troop E conducted 9 vechicle checks between 1800 hours and 0600 hours which
resulted in 1 DUI arrest, 1 arrest on warrant, 5 citations for open container and 3 citations
for drugs or drug paraphanalia.
Compliance Checks for Sales to Intoxicated Persons
With the exception of Scotts Bluff County formal compliance checks are not done. In
Scottsbluff there were three violations in 2008.
Local law enforcement is more likely to enforce on “walk throughs” of bars during the
evening hours. Some counties noted that walk throughs were not done in their
Compliance Checks on Sales to Minors
Compliance checks for Sales to Minors are most likely to be done by the State Patrol.
Local law enforcement note the size of small rural communities and the fact that
everyone recognizes local officers as a reason for this.
State Patrol either plans and executes the “sting” on their own or after assistance
is requested by local officers.
State Patrol funds to conduct compliance checks outside of Scotts Bluff County
Project Extra Mile provides additional funding for checks in Scotts Bluff County.
Some local law enforcement noted that more such compliance checks are needed
and that it would be useful if these were conducted without the knowledge of
local law enforcement.
State Patrol note that in many small rural communities compliance checks may
not be as successful as local establishments know the local minors and stop
serving or will not serve when there are stranger/outsiders in the establishment.
Panhandle Regional SPF SIG Assessment 3
Law Enforcement Summary
During 2008 Scotts Bluff was checked twice with State Patrol. In 35 establishments
checked there was 1 violation.
During 2008 18 checks occurred in Dawes county (college population) with 6 arrests for
sale of alcohol to a minor.
Two checks were conducted in Box Butte County with no arrests.
Additional Law Enforcement Efforts
All but two entities described being engaged in two or more of the following:
Schools/School Resource Officers
Present at School Events (including Prom/Homecoming)
Press Releases with the names of over 16
Locations or People Known For Alcohol Related Incidents
All local entities responded that there are locations and or groups of people known for
alcohol related offenses. These include:
All counties with rural ranching/farming areas noted that the backroads and rural
locations attract underage parties. Two counties are aware of specific locations.
Others see the problem as a moving party depending on where law enforcement is
located. It is difficult to take action on this given the limited number of officers.
Most people do patrol when they hear of a party.
More populated areas have specific streets or establishments which are noted.
Additonal patrols are provided here as long as officers are available.
One community noted a recent problem with out of town construction crews and
locals fighting in bars. Support given from other law enforcement agencies
resulted in a policy made that anyone fighting would go to jail for the night. There
are a number of consequences from this including names being published in the
paper. The locals were especially concerned by this. The company emplying the
crew fired anyone who went to jail. Also did drug testing.
Chadron noted the problem with house parties of college students. There has been
a community wide effort to address this issue including the recent passage of an
ordinance which holds landlords accountable.
Two local entities noted that shifting/promoting the philopshy of consistent enforcement
and documentation for all crimes is in general a deterrent for known populations for
alcohol use. In one community there has been a 30% increase in the number of all
citations which does not reflect an increase in crime but rather a change in enforcement.
Support of Local Law Enforcement
The degree of support law enforcement receives varies in each county and by groups
Panhandle Regional SPF SIG Assessment 4
Law Enforcement Summary
The decision to move forward with cases is left to the county attorney. Not all cases are
The reason why cases are not prosecuted is not always relayed to law enforcment.
Therefore it is not known what improvements could be made to policy and
In some instances it is believed that local politics maybe involved. That is, there
are citizens of influence placing pressure on the county attorney.
County attorneys may also have a high volume of cases.
Part time county attorneys who also have a private practice may find themselves
in potential conflict of interest situations as those cited are also clients. These
cases must then be referred to other counties.
At the highest degree local government is supportive when ordinaces are passed to assist
law enforcement. These actions are not always popular with local citizens and in small
communities relationships can be strained.
Scottsbluff has passed an ordinance prohibiting those serving alcohol from
drinking while working.
Chadron has passed an ordinace to curb college student and underage parties
aimed at landlords.
Scottsbluff City Council also formed the Liquor Advisory Review Committee. This is the
only such entity outside of Lincoln. This has been very valuable. Citizens are actively
involved. This has engaged community members.
Many law enforcement officers noted that politics can also make difficulties for elected
officals and that there are citizens who believe they should have preferential treatment
and who attempt to involve local officals in cases.
Sioux and Banner County noted a high degree of citizen support in actually calling local
law enforcement to report people on their property or actually removing alchol from
underage minors who were not their children. Other counties noted that some parents are
Local coalitions were cited as supportive and of assistance in several counties. A number
of factors were noted in regard to the level of support:
Personal relationships are crucial to accomplishing changes in ordinance and
Counties with long existing broad-based collaborations were more likely to be
able to take supportive action.
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Law Enforcement Summary
Challenges for Local Law Enforcement
In interviews and community meetings law enforcement officers noted that verbal abuse
and physical abuse can, and does, occur when dealing with adults and underage minors
who are intoxicated.
The larger the group is the more concern there is for the officer.
Scottsbluff and Chadron have Tazers. In 2008 there were 12 Tazer deployments
in Scottsbluff all of them related to alcohol.
Community Acceptance of Responsibility
“These days, people do not accept that they have made a mistake. They spend
money for a lawyer to try to get them off. Sure they were drinking but maybe
there was a date missing from a piece of paper.”
“The majority of kids in (deleted) counties drink and are not getting caught or not
paying consequences. People think they are protecting their kids from trouble
(citation and probation) but they really aren’t. They are not learning to deal with
life’s problems. And when they go to the big cities (Kearney and Lincoln) people
really do not care who they are or what family they are from. If they get DUI’s or
MIP’s they get charged. I know of seven kids from one high school class, which
is a little more than one quarter of the class, who have been charged once they left
their home county.”
There is not enough broad-based community support.
Community Perception of Role of Law Enforcement
Officers reported citizens who had been arrested for DUI or parents of MIP’s
questionning why law enforcement was doing this and why they were not out “doing
“Half of the parents are angry with their kids when they get caught and the other
half are angry with us.”
The following concerns were mentioned in regards to laws which at times cause
challenges for law enforcement.
Minors Consuming At Home
It is legal in Nebraska for minors to consume alcohol in their own residence, and for
parents to provide alcohol to their child in the residence. There are a number of concerns,
and in some cases lack of common enforcement across the Panhandle as a result.
Minors consuming at home and then leaving and being found under the influence
in public places. Parents and minors saying the parents provided the alcohol at
home. Responses of local law enforcement and county attorneys vary after this
point. Some believe that the intent was never to allow children to drink to the
point of intoxication. Some believe that if the child consumes then the child
should be required to stay at home. Some believe that if a child is in public then
wherever the alcohol is obtained does not matter.
Another example is provided in terms of college students. There can be an out of
state student, who pays out of state tuition, has a drivers license from out of state,
Panhandle Regional SPF SIG Assessment 6
Law Enforcement Summary
but rents an apartment in the Panhandle for nine months of the year. The judge
may consider the rented property the permanent residence. The law requires a
current driver’s license. If this is a permanent residence then the student should
have a NE license listing that as the residence. The same happens with instate
students from other communities.
Minors in Bars
Laws that allow minors into bars to hear bands. There is a difference between a
restaurant and a bar. Bars serve french fries/hamburgers to get past this. But the issue is
minors on premise after nine at night. They may not get served but they also get the
Sale to Intoxicated Persons
The Liquor Control Act does not have enough teeth for this. If you cite a patron it ends
up in an argument between the bar owner and the patron. The owner says they did not
serve more than one drink, that the patron was drunk when they came in. It goes no
where. There is only a small fine and then several times before it sinks in.
Bars Open After Closing Time
The legislation that allows bars to be open as long as not serving past a specific time
leaves room for real problems. You know they are serving but you have to catch them.
They are serving shots and every time you walk in they say they are just doing the dishes.
Many minors who are doing this driving around and drinking seem to be under the
impression that if they do not have the open container they cannot be charged. So they
keep throwing the bottles out the window. We need to clear up this misconception with
the kids. If the alcohol is in you -you can be charged. Maybe that will cut down on the
The law allows for people under the age of 21 to serve.
Servers Drinking on the Job
There is no law against servers drinking while working. It is difficult to tell if the patron
is intoxicated if the server is drinking too.
Nebraska Liquor Control Commission
There is a back log, up to six months now for cases.
Panhandle Regional SPF SIG Assessment 7
Law Enforcement Summary