Bar scene crackdown: Moorhead police worry problems could escalate
The recent string of bar fights in Moorhead has police Sgt.
The recent string of bar fights in Moorhead has police Sgt. Shannon Monroe worried.
The cop who heads the day-to-day operations of the investigations unit told his superiors in an e-mail he's concerned the fights will escalate into a shooting involving police.
"My concern is that we will be in an officer-involved shooting/homicide investigation very soon," Monroe wrote in the e-mail made public at last week's City Council meeting.
In the e-mail he described the chaotic scene that met officers who responded to the early-morning June 11 assault outside of Coach's Sports Pub.
"It appears to have been utter chaos at best," wrote Monroe, adding that it was impossible for the two officers already in the bar's parking lot when the call arrived to control the crowd of about 300, many of whom were drunk.
The lot was so crowded the ambulance had trouble reaching the two men who were stabbed and the officers could not find each other.
Both stabbing victims were treated and released from MeritCare Hospital.
In the past few months, bars in Moorhead - which can stay open an hour later than those in Fargo - have come under increased scrutiny as crowds have sparked many problems and several fights.
Monroe suggests police come up with a plan to crack down on the city's busy bar scene, and it looks like he will get his wish.
Chief Grant Weyland said Friday that police supervisors this week will discuss ways to keep a firmer control on Moorhead bars.
"There are a lot of things we need to look at. We don't have anything specific yet, but it's certainly something we'll be dealing with soon," he said.
Weyland said the situation calls for an ongoing strategy, and it may take a while to find out what will work.
"We'll start with some things, and we'll go from there," he said. "It's difficult to say it will be in two weeks or it will be in three weeks."
Right now, there are typically eight officers - six at the minimum - on duty during the key hours of 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., said Lt. Bob Larson.
Bumping up the number of officers is likely not an option, as that would require either overtime the city can't afford or an increase in the size of the 49-person force.
"We've discussed it, but we only have so many bodies," Larson said.
The chief said one of his ideas is for on-duty officers to visit bars more frequently.
That will provide better communication between bar staff and officers, he said.
Monroe said he'd like some undercover officers stationed in busy bars as well to keep tabs on potential over serving.
There is no set policy on random bar checks, but Monroe said police try to visit most bars once a night.
Increasing the police presence would likely help keep unruly patrons in check, said the owner of one bar that has been the scene of several recent fights.
"Anytime people see a police officer, they're probably going to second-guess what they're doing," said Terry Kragero, owner of Mick's Office, 10 8th St. S.
Monroe said he would also like to discuss changing city law to require bars to have a certain level of security based on size and ID scanners at the door.
The point may be moot in August, when Fargo bars can extend their closing time to 2 a.m. to match Moorhead's.
Even though the North Dakota Legislature has approved the 2 a.m. closing, the Fargo City Commission has not yet settled the issue.
It's hard to know for sure that things will settle down when closing times are the same on both sides of the river, Larson said.
"Reason tells you yes, it should, but who knows?" he said.
Whether the problems take care of themselves or police develop a new plan of attack, something must change, Monroe said.
"We can't keep up under this system."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535