Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Off-duty police needed to aid security, owner says

Officers prohibited from working at bars, but city leaders open to revising policy

June 25, 2006


When it comes to the bar and nightclub industry, city staff members are researching all types of ideas to improve security - ranging from closed-circuit television cameras to more strict licensing requirements.

At least one downtown bar owner has an idea that he wants added to the list for consideration: Let police work at bars.

"I would love to hire off-duty police officers to work in my clubs, but the city policy won't allow it," said Dennis Steffes, owner of Last Call.

Steffes' club was in the news last month after someone fired seven shots inside the establishment, 729 N.H., sending 200 people fleeing into the street. No one was injured.

Steffes is correct that city policy does not allow police officers to do off-duty work where alcohol is sold. Both City Hall and police department leaders said there were good reasons for the rule.

"The policy is designed to prevent any conflict of interest or corruption," said Sgt. Dan Ward, a spokesman for the department.

The policy is designed to prevent police officers from being put in a position of writing tickets to bar owners or operators who also may be paying them for their services as an off-duty doorman.

Shanna Todd, left, and Lindsey Brooks share a drink at Louise's Downtown, 1009 Mass. Off-duty Lawrence police officers are prohibited from working at businesses that sell alcohol; however, at least one downtown bar owner says a policy change would improve security at the city's bars, which have faced several recent incidents involving guns.

Shanna Todd, left, and Lindsey Brooks share a drink at Louise's Downtown, 1009 Mass. Off-duty Lawrence police officers are prohibited from working at businesses that sell alcohol; however, at least one downtown bar owner says a policy change would improve security at the city's bars, which have faced several recent incidents involving guns.

Steffes, though, said the use of off-duty police officers would have major advantages because bar and nightclub operators would be assured that the officers are trained in how to deal with a variety of situations.

The issue of bar and nightclub security has been a hot one following the incident at Steffes' club and a shooting earlier this year outside the Granada, 1020 Mass., that left one man dead and another man injured.

Lawrence's prohibition on the practice, however, isn't uncommon. Both the Kansas City, Kan., and Topeka police departments have similar policies, and both cite the potential for a perceived conflict of interest.

City leaders, though, said they want to hear bar owners out. City staff members are in the process of organizing an early July meeting for city staff members and bar owners to discuss security issues.

"The police chief has articulated a good rationale for that policy in the past, but I don't want to take something off the table before we ever have a meeting," Interim City Manager David Corliss said.

Whether the idea of hiring off-duty police officers has broad appeal among other Lawrence bar owners is unclear. Several this week said they were apathetic about the issue. Instead, they said they were more concerned that the city not look at a few incidents and assume that all bars need to follow new regulations.

Downtown bar safety

Several bars patrons talked earlier this week about how safe they feel when they're hitting the downtown Lawrence bar scene. Enlarge video

"They're all individual situations," said Brad Ziegler, who has ownership interests in several bars and restaurants, including the Eighth Street Tap Room and Louise's Downtown. "I don't think it is fair to group all of us together.

"I think there are some bar owners who have made some poor decisions about the clientele they are trying to cater to, and that is what is causing their problems."

City commissioners earlier this month received a city staff report that researched four options that the city could consider implementing. Those included:

¢ Creation of an entertainment club license. All nightclubs that serve liquor already must be licensed by the state. But cities have the ability to make entertainment establishments obtain an additional license that would give the city more ability to regulate those businesses.

¢ A city-run program to license and train nightclub bouncers, doormen and other security personnel.

¢ Closed-circuit television cameras in city parking lots and street lamps and other public property. The cameras would allow police headquarters to view real-time video of activity outside bars and along downtown streets.

¢ A "bar-watch" program similar to neighborhood watch programs where bars and nightclubs band together and share information about problem patrons.


Mike Birch 11 years, 12 months ago

Off-duty police officers working security at the Last Call.

It too late for that Steffels! The Last Call is going to be

shut-down and that is all there is to it.


geekin_topekan 11 years, 12 months ago

I love her response to the question of ever havingproblems here in Lawrence."No,you see the cops everyonce in a while but theyve never bothered me,I just steer clear..."

I have to ask,how does the photo of Shana and Lindsey fit anywhere into this story?

reginafliangie 11 years, 12 months ago

No doubt! I don't go, especially to that bar just because of the guns and drugs found in near by cars. That element of people does not appeal to me. But there are several others that I do patron because they seem safe and the staff seem to do their jobs.

Rhoen 11 years, 12 months ago

The police have plenty to do when they are ON duty and they need their rest when they are OFF.

Let's ban bars generally, blond females out after dark, and LJW photographers who want to frame their stories in odd, visual ways.

Jamesaust 11 years, 12 months ago

Nothing prohibits off-duty policemen from KCK or Topeka working in Lawrence bars.

"I think there are some bar owners who have made some poor decisions about the clientele they are trying to cater to, and that is what is causing their problems."

'nuf said.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 12 months ago

We are officially a town of wusses....If we are going to have cameras all over mass. st we might as well roof it over and call it a mall. The occasional bar fight happens.....and unfortunately once in a great while somebody get's killed......cameras would not of stopped what happened outside of the granada nor will it stop a bunch of liquored up jocks and frat rats from having a brawl (I would use rednecks as an example, but we tend to keep our fights to ourselves and not get a lot of press about it). If you do not want to be in a situation where a fight may happen, go to a fern bar or a boho coffee shop that serves alcohol.

GardenMomma 11 years, 12 months ago

What a dumb idea, off-duty police officers working in bars! The City of Lawrence has a policy that does not allow off-duty police officers to work in places that serve alcohol. I would assume that KCK and Topeka have similar policies for their City Employees as well.

As for security, that's the way it goes. If you can't hire security and train them to handle the types of situations that typically arise in your particular establishment, then you probably shouldn't be in business anyway.

Security is much more than big guys. They have to know how to handle the crowds and PREVENT situations from becoming a potentially deadly problem.

Fatty_McButterpants 11 years, 12 months ago

GardenMomma: I think you hit the nail on the head. Too many bars think "I'll just hire the biggest, most 'roided out guy I can find and everything will be fine". Unfortunately, the big guys are the ones that usually just try and use their brawn to resolve a situation instead of their heads.

Sigmund 11 years, 12 months ago

I'm all for LPD off duty working any job that would be legal for any other citizen. If they want to work security at a bar I think it would be great. This is a better idea than the City training rent-a-cops.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 12 months ago

So there are black rednecks? or hispanic rednecks? Yet another example of lawrences use of politically correct racism and classist behaivor......i've met bad doormen and security guys (and women) from allmost every race of the planet........the job itself draws the chip on the shoulder types.......But thank you for showing your ass in public about how yo feel about people that do not share your no doubt urbane and sophisticated outlook on life and fashion....bigot.

moveforward 11 years, 12 months ago

I hate to judge a book by its cover, but in this case actions and words from Steffels speak loudly. The guy seems like scum and without much moral or ethical substance. Just the kind of guy I could do without in my neighborhood. I know it sounds judgemental, but what is he contributing to the community, and how much is he taking. Does he even live here?

I know we have unethical people here in other occupations that are also legal (paycheck, title loans and the like) but people aren't getting shot at (that I know of) in those cases. Lawrence would be far better off if he moved on.

reginafliangie 11 years, 12 months ago

Well knowing what Dennis has not given to the city but what he takes away. He is the only bar in town to stay open past 3am that draws and unsavory crowd that bring in drugs and guns and stolen cars. This same crowd leaves and there are fights in the parking lots, several of the subjects go to the "kwik shop" type of stores and raid and loot them. That way the entire police department gets bombarded with calls all over town just from this 1 bar crowd that is raising cain all over the city. It's not like that when the other 50 bars in town close down. So we are spending our resources of officers to try to tame this crowd instead of helping out where other things are going on. This is also putting a definite strain of the businesses around town who have been shoplifted and now must close their stores for an hour each Saturday night in fear that they will be robbed. No officers are avalible to help other citizens and this is all due to the greediness of ONE man and his relentless need to stay open an hour later and have his patrons run rampit in the city. That is what he does for this city. Nice huh??

girly 11 years, 12 months ago

I don't think off-duty officers should be working in bars. They should train the door men and security men if necessary (and I agree, it is necessary), but leave the police to do their impartial policing.

nekansan 11 years, 12 months ago

So does this mean that Last Call has had sub-standard security? It certainly sounds that way based on Steffes' statement. If that is the case, the city should take action and close his establishment until he can provide adequate security. I'm sure a few attorneys and his insurance provider might be interested in his statements as well. Furthermore, there is no way the city should be involved in providing training to private security staff. There is simply too much liability and they do not control the environment in these businesses, the owners do. Steffes should do like any other business owner, step up and absorb the costs of doing business. He wants to attract a clientele that clearly brings weapons and violence along with it but then expects the city to keep his business safe. No other bar owner is expecting the city to provide special services for them. I'd certainly be willing to bet the police would be happy to arrest any patrons found in the bar with weapons, all it takes is a simple phone call. But that would not generate headlines for Steffes, so we can't have that.

Steve Jacob 11 years, 12 months ago

Everyone one who works for security guards companies are police wantabes who have felonies or can't pass the test. Might as well have off-duty police working instead.

Reminds me of the story that the government hired a company to guard the enternce of a big military base in the Carolinas, and a news report said 30% of them had a record.

dthroat 11 years, 12 months ago

Wasn't going to speak to this one, but here goes.

Off-duty police do NOT need to work at bars. Just one thing - tonite Steffes is their boss and the next night while on duty they have to write Steffes (or his manager since he is never there) a citation for underage, over crowded, whatever. That sounds like fun.

How many other bars who don't have to hire that kind of security are going to cry "foul" when they get busted but Steffes doesn't for some infraction???

And here is what I see behind his statements. Hire off duty cops and then when something happens at his bar, he can say The cops were there BLAME THEM. This is just all a BIG smoke screen by Steffes (who knows it is not allowed for cops to work there) to deflect ANYTHING from being his responsibility.

kujeeper 11 years, 12 months ago

If anybody knows the home address and contact numbers for the owner of Last Call they should post them somewhere so we can all call him and send him some ideas we have for what he can do to prevent trouble in his clubs.

Rhoen 11 years, 12 months ago

That property is on a block that has property values quickly rising. This will be a non-issue soon enough. The Last Call will probably not exist a year from now - in that location at least.

Mischka 11 years, 12 months ago

Um, staying open later isnt the problem - that isnt what draws troublemakers. Just because a person likes to stay out an hour later? How stupid a connection is that? Its that the patrons are allowed to get away with nonsense that draws them. Trouble bars need to install metal dectectors, put some rules into place - yeah, its going to push some legit patrons away, but if it weeds out your jerks, it might work out for the better.

As Jamesaust and my boyf suggested - why dont they just allow off duty officers from NEAR BY towns to do the security? Yeah, it still leaves Lawrence police officers seeking other jobs elsewhere, but it dissolves the conflict of interest issue while still providing extra security. How simple is that? I mean we have Stull, Eudora, Tongie, Ottawa not that far away. And I'm sure their cops are looking for PT work, same as ours are.

geekin_topekan: I know Shanna and Lindsey - believe me, as one of my co-workers said, "The bars NEED protection from the two of them." grin

Godot 11 years, 12 months ago

Lawrence cops should be prohibited from hiring themselves out as "security" for private businesses. If they think they will be better of as private cops, they should quit their government jobs.

reginafliangie 11 years, 12 months ago

Mischka, the point I was making about being open an hour later is that this is ONE bar doing that and the rest of the dozens of bars in town close at 2am. With that said why is it that that ONE bar closing causes more problems and issues that the rest of the bar closing all together. This is how much of a trouble making bar this is. And why should the police force and businesses in town have to wait an extra hour for that one bar to clear out so that things can get back to normal? I don't understand the point in staying open later, it seems to me that it's just greed driving this, and nothing else.

Also, Stull doesn't have a police force. They are patrolled by the DG Sheriff Dept.

monkeywrench1969 11 years, 12 months ago

Why sure the city and the tax payers pay for a program to train bouncers and door men.

THey CAN set up guidelines for them to follow monitored by the city, but the rest of the city paying for something Steffes wants is another way for him to get something for nothing. Steffes has claimed he has brought in training for his people...if they were so good there would not have been a shooting int he club.

He makes these suggestions and gets certain priviledges then takes advantage of them. He gets to stay open until 300am unlike many you really think they stop selling alcohol at 2am. They have people intere smoking all types of things...

Yeah right

happyone 11 years, 12 months ago

Since all this havoc is being caused after Last Call closes at 3am the LPD needs to set up check points at both ends of the block and arrest any and all leaving the bar...dirty politics I realize but many would not return after being put in jail after leaving. Set up the blocks at say 2:30 so those at Louise's, The Harbour, ect can get off Mass then set up the block to catch those leaving Last Call. And just think of all the money that would be raised for the City in the fines, also if we get repeat offenders they could be sitting in jail for a good long time on OUI charges, plus if arrested for OUI the cops then can search and seize the vehicle and any weapons within it......just a thought

reginafliangie 11 years, 12 months ago

Hey I am all for setting up road blocks but that would probably not work since they all start fighting the second they leave last call and the guns start shooting, the officers have to rush to the scene to control the crowd that can't even make it to their cars before starting propblems. Some of the officers go and stand by some of the locations that were being looted. There are only so many officers to cover way to many locations that this crowd could scatter too.

jafs 11 years, 12 months ago

I continue to believe that earlier closing times would improve the situation greatly, if not completely eliminate dowtown crime. Why not set closing times of 12 midnight for all bars/clubs? This would reduce the attractiveness of Lawrence venues to those who come in from out of town, and shorten the length of time people have been drinking before they get out. Anyone can drink later at home, if they must.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 12 months ago

jafs you just made a enemy of every resaraunt worker who gets off work around midnight.....They would like to be served by somebody themselves.

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