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Indiana excise police meet with community

Anna Boarini | Thursday, September 9, 2010

When the Indiana State Excise police were founded during prohibition 97 years ago, they were known as the “liquor police.”

Now, they still handle alcohol-related cases, but one of their main goals is to make their presence known within the community, master officer Michelle Traughber said at a community relations meeting Wednesday.

The University’s Office of Community Relations held a meeting with the excise police in downtown South Bend not to discuss a recent spike in alcohol-related arrests, but to learn more about the excise police and their place in the community.

The force, which works to provide support to local task forces and special investigation units, employs 90      officers who cover six districts across the state.

The excise police run the Fatal Alcohol Crash Team, which assists at accident scenes involving alcohol. They also assist at DUI checkpoints, investigate private areas of alcohol establishments and issue permits to individuals and businesses that sell alcohol.

One of their main goals, however, is to make their presence known in areas of the community where offenses become a major problem as a deterrent to violators.

“If people don’t fear being arrested, they will continue to break the law,” Traughber said.

After the presentation was over, Traughber opened the floor to questions, at which point the topic turned to the recent wave of underage drinking arrests of Notre Dame students.

But Notre Dame Crime Prevention Officer Keri Kei Shibata, who oversaw the presentation, said that topic was not the purpose of the meeting.

“We are not going to comment on the recent incidents. We are here to talk about what the excise police can do for our community,” she said.

Still, audience members asked questions related to student drinking.

Chip Lewis, an attorney with Lewis and Wilkins, asked how officers determine when to arrest students and when to cite students.

“Underage drinking is a misdemeanor for which you can be arrested,” said Corporal Chris Bard of the excise police.

He said officers take on a certain liability when releasing intoxicated people into the community and some officers are not willing to take that risk.

“Regardless of arrest or just being issued a citation, you will still have to appear before a judge,” Bard said.

He said the best way to avoid arrest and other consequences is to cooperate with the police.

“You still have to appear in front of a judge, but in the report the officer writes if you cooperated or not,” Bard said. “That affects the judge’s decision.”