4 Tips on Interacting with Law Enforcement

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If you’ve operated a bar for a decent amount of time you have probably had to deal with law enforcement at one point or another. Law enforcement takes on many forms and operators must know they can affect their business.

For example, in the province I reside, the body of government that oversees the sale of alcohol is called AGLC (Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission). While AGLC are not police officers, they control the issuing and renewing of liquor licenses. Every drop of liquor that is sold for profit must be first purchased from AGLC, so they also control what products operators are licensed to sell.

Another area of law enforcement that bar operators must understand is fire safety. The fire marshal oversees occupancy limits, which for busy nightclub operators is a constant challenge, especially when demand exceeds capacity. Then there are police, which can come in several forms, including gang suppression units and emergency response teams.

Wherever you operate, you will deal with legal authorities of some kind and must know how to handle them. Read on for some insider tips for dealing with law enforcement.

1. Keep your Cool

There’s a scene from the legendary movie Goodfellas in which the wife of Henry Hill describes her weekly routine of dealing with police regularly coming by her home to execute search warrants. She talks plainly about offering coffee to the police when they arrive, signing whatever papers they need signing, and then staying calm while they rummage through her things. She contrasts her calm demeanor with that of another mobster wife who, when going through the same invasive event, would become argumentative and spit on her own floor in disgust. This behavior would end up resulting in more harassment from the police, not less.

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The lesson here is that you will gain absolutely nothing by losing your temper, voicing your disapproval, and becoming confrontational when dealing with law enforcement. No matter what the situation is, remain calm, be friendly, and always keep your cool.

2. Make Friends with Them

The best way to influence law enforcement is to befriend them. Even if you despise law enforcement, you must remember it doesn’t matter what your personal feelings are. Law enforcement people can absolutely crush your business and make your life hell if they so choose. The key words in that last sentence are “if they so choose.”

You must remember that law enforcement officers are people at the end of the day. If you want them to make decisions that will ultimately make your life easier, the chances of this happening are greater if they like you as a person. For this reason, make small talk, get to know them, and be polite when they arrive. If you build a positive relationship with the law enforcement agencies in your area, it will be easier to deal with them.

3. Keep Great Records

To effectively make your case against any accusation, you must have great records of everything that can come into question. For situations involving violence, for example, having a properly placed surveillance system can mean the difference between winning or losing a lawsuit. Without the surveillance system, it’s pretty much eyewitness testimony, which can put you in precarious situations.

Keeping detailed and easily accessible records should be a priority for every department of your business. These days, cloud-based technology allows operators to keep records of everything from surveillance footage, receipts, invoices, operational check lists, and cash outs in a centralized place that is easily accessible.

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Having this information—and accessing it quickly once a situation comes up—is vital to dealing with law enforcement. Keep detailed records and find an efficient way to keep them organized.

4. Communicate and Comply

You don’t need to admit guilt when you’re being cited for anything, but you would be wise not to fight an accusation while it is being made. Many people get into arguments with a police officer while they’re writing speeding tickets. This complete lack of self-control gives the police that much more ammunition to work with and can potentially result in more charges.

Instead, when a wise person is in the same situation, they reply that they aren’t “exactly sure” why they’re being stopped. They comply instead of making a big fuss over the situation. The wise person knows that by keeping great records and dealing calmly with the situation at the assigned court date, things can change quickly in their favor.

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There’s a time and place to deal with any area of law enforcement and that time is during court, when you’re calm, have all your records, and you have your lawyer present. Do not try to resolve it when you get cited.

Kevin is an operations consultant with over a decade of experience working directly with bar, restaurant and nightclub owners on all points of the spectrum: from family-owned single bar operations to large companies with locations on an international scale. Kevin works with them all and understands the unique challenges each kind of company faces.

He is the author of a book entitled Night Club Marketing Systems – How to Get Customers for Your Bar. He is also a regular writer for Nightclub & Bar, providing information high-level operators seek to get the extra edge in their marketing, sales and operations.

He continues to write today, providing specialized information directly to nightclub, bar and restaurant owners from his workshops, newsletters and magazine articles. He is also active in the field, operating an inventory auditing practice with Sculpture Hospitality.

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