The City of Charleston Police Department is taking a zero tolerance stance on troublesome drunks downtown, instructing officers to make arrests when they encounter an intoxicated person during a police call.
In an e-mail to more than 50 officers earlier this month Lt. Charles Mitchell instructed them to make no exceptions for drunks.
“I have noticed a disturbing problem that needs to stop immediately,” he wrote in the e-mail. “If an intoxicated person is encountered then that person needs to be arrested.”
Mitchell tells the City Paper that he later clarified his comments in a second e-mail to officers, explaining that he wasn’t against people having a good time.
“We’re talking about where they are so grossly intoxicated that they’re a danger to themselves and others,” he says.
Recently, some officers have let drunkenness slide and there have been consequences, Mitchell says. In one case, officers broke up a fight downtown. Instead of arresting one of the men who was considered to be “a little intoxicated,” they called him a cab. While they were waiting for the taxi, the man attacked one of the officers. There was also an incident where officers escorted a woman home and left her in the care of her friends, only to have them eventually call 911 due to alcohol poisoning.
“If we see things like that, we’re not going to let them go,” Mitchell says.
In the e-mail, Mitchell tells officers that they are personally liable if they let a drunk person go.
“There is a difference between professionalism and just being an out of the way nice person,” he wrote in the e-mail. “The latter will always get you in trouble where professionalism will always assist you in any situation.”