Bar owners stress lack of communication with police

BY IAN MURPHY | APRIL 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa City bar and restaurant owners say they would like a chance to create a dialogue with one police department’s officers writing citations on patrons who have made a mistake.

Some Iowa City bar and restaurant owners said they are upset with the lack of communication between themselves and the University of Iowa police at a forum held last week.

“We’ve often said if they have any concerns to get in touch,” said Chuck Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police.

Although Iowa City police officers were present at the forum, representatives from UI police were not.

Green said the two departments have a working relationship and have collaborated before.

“When our officers are on foot patrols, they are in communication,” Green said. “Sometimes they have teamed up [with city police].”

The UI police require their officers to attend the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, which allows them to enforce all local ordinances and state laws, including the 21-ordinance.

Several owners were upset both the city and university police could check their bars in the same night. 

“Other than specific grant-related enforcement efforts, there is not generally a coordinated plan for enforcement,” wrote Lucy Wiederholt, an associate director of the UI police, in an email.

However, both departments have the capacity to converse if needed.

“Officers have the ability to communicate via radio, and they will exchange information throughout the course of any given work period via radio or in person,” Wiederholt said.

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., said she was concerned about the policing because the bars downtown have never had communication with the university.

“You might have Iowa City PD come in and do a bar check and five minutes later have UIPD come in for a bar check,” she said.

In addition to overlapping enforcements, Cohen said having the UI police in conversation is important for additional reasons.

“I think because they play such a critical role in the reduction of underage drinking, they need to be part of the conversation,” she said.

Cohen said university police have not been at previous forums and conversation is important because of what can happen when the bars are found in violation of the ordinances, including loss of liquor licenses.

“We as owners, that’s our livelihood,” she said.

Jim Bell, the owner of the Deadwood, 6 S. Dubuque St., said he knows several city police officers, but does not know any officers at the UI police.

“We don’t communicate with them,” he said.

But Green maintained his office is always available should the owners have questions or concerns.

“If someone contacts us, we will certainly pick up the phone,” he said.

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