Both Patrolman Bauer and Police Chief Matt Andres stressed that the purpose of the tobacco and alcohol sales compliance program is education.
The businesses in Sleepy Eye that sell tobacco or alcohol are licensed by the city to do so and are expected to follow the law concerning such sales. The Sleepy Eye Police Department has a role in ensuring lawful sales, conducting compliance checks each year.
Patrolman Justin Bauer is the department’s compliance officer. He just recently completed compliance checks on the six businesses in Sleepy Eye that are licensed to sell tobacco, and all six passed the check. In the case of tobacco, the law states that no one under the age of 18 may purchase tobacco products. The compliance check involves an underage buyer attempting to purchase tobacco.
Both Patrolman Bauer and Police Chief Matt Andres stressed that the purpose of the compliance program is education. “We’re not trying to catch them,” said Chief Andres. “We are trying to educate them about the law.”
The consequences for selling alcohol or tobacco to underage individuals should serve as a deterrent to illegal sales. The clerk who makes the sale could be fined; the business might face suspension or revocation of their license if violations are chronic.
Officer Bauer said he hand delivers a letter to each business that informs them compliance checks will be conducted. “They know it will happen, but they don’t know when,” he said. “Again, we are trying to work with them, not against them.”
The officers said they want businesses to be compliant and know that they must follow the law. The letter from Bauer urges business owners and managers to provide their staff with basic information on how to comply with the law, such as guidance on easy ways to check IDs.
Ten businesses in Sleepy Eye are licensed to sell alcohol and will also undergo sales compliance checks. Chief Andres said that care with alcohol sales is especially important for public safety. Individuals under the age of 21 cannot buy alcohol. Servers of alcohol also need to be aware of other issues said Bauer. For instance, if an overserved person causes a bad accident the server may face civil charges.
The police department is prepared to offer additional education for businesses that sell alcohol. Officer Bauer completed alcohol server training for law enforcement personnel. He is planning to offer a workshop for owners, managers and employees of Sleepy Eye businesses with liquor licenses.
“I can go over the law concerning alcohol sales and serving in detail; teach about fake ID recognition and overserving,” said Bauer. He stressed once again that the police want every business to know and understand their responsibility, and that police are working with them to achieve that goal.
Chief Andres said this year the department received a grant from Brown County Underage Substance Abuse Coalition to help meet expenses of the compliance check programs.