Record numbers of law enforcement officers will be on duty this Fourth of July to try to prevent the kind of violence that marred last year’s celebration.
Last year’s Independence Day crowd downtown was among the loudest and rowdiest authorities can remember.
“It sort of took us by surprise,” said Coeur d’Alene Police Capt. Ken Timmons.
Bad tempers flared and one man was stabbed, a police officer was punched in the face and a drunken driver nearly hit several pedestrians.
By the end of the evening, reports showed most of the troublemakers were from Washington, Timmons noted.
“I felt the mood of the city change.” Timmons said.
For nine months, he’s been working on a plan to prevent similar trouble. This year, Kiwanis volunteers will act as early morning parade monitors, to preserve police officers’ hours for later in the day.
“After 1 or 2 p.m. we’re going to have in this city or available, a combined total of around 80 (officers),” Timmons said.
That will include a cadre of Idaho State Police officers trained for crowd control. A specialized Idaho State Police motor home will serve as law enforcement’s command post, where dispatchers, a city police captain and ISP captain will manage police forces.
“Our intention is not to intimidate anybody but to have the resources available to prevent potential problems before they start,” Timmons said of the increased police presence. “Ultimately, the bottom line is I want to have enough officers to handle a situation, should it arise, without getting the public hurt or an officer hurt.”
Officers will strictly enforce city ordinances including littering, bicycling, rollerblading or skateboarding downtown and possession of fireworks, of any kind, in city parks, parking lots, beaches or docks.
“Disruptive, loud, lawbreaking people. Those are the people we are going to be targeting,” Timmons said.
It’s illegal to consume alcohol within public parks, property, grounds, streets in the city, as well as in motor vehicles, parked or moving.
It was 20 years ago this summer that drinking was banned in Coeur d’Alene’s city parks.
Coeur d’Alene police Lt. Ron Hotchkiss patrolled parks that last summer alcohol was allowed. It was 1976, the bicentennial, and as rowdy youths rolled kegs of beer from their cars into the City Park, Hotchkiss was shooting rolls of film to document the debauchery.
The following spring, he went to City Council with his “show and tell” photo exhibit and talked the council into passing an ordinance prohibiting alcohol in parks.
At the time, council members believed police never would successfully enforce the law.
“Twenty years later if you look at the park it’s a nice place,” Hotchkiss said. “They never would have built that playground back then because it was not a kid’s place.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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