Local bartenders, liquor store clerks, and others who serve alcohol gathered on a recent Tuesday at the Westminster Police Department to learn about the rules and regulations surrounding alcohol sales in California.
“Our intent is not to trick you, it’s just to make sure you’re paying attention,” Dana Saladen, California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) LEAD trainer, told the class of about 20. She was addressing underage decoys utilized by police agencies and ABC to check if businesses are abiding by the law when it comes to not selling alcohol to minors.
The LEAD training, which is a free program available to store and restaurant owners and their employees, is part of Westminster PD’s educational outreach to businesses under a new grant the agency received through ABC.
“It’s kind of like a refresher course,” said WPD Det. Kyle Seasock, who submitted the grant application to ABC. He added that under a new law in the state, all those who work in alcohol sales or service must be certified under this LEAD training by 2021.
“We want to make sure you’re checking that ID,” Saladen said to the class.
Among other important facts about selling alcohol, Saladen offered some details about how decoys are used in alcohol sales enforcement at businesses. In 1994, she said, the California Supreme Court ruled that use of minor decoys was not entrapment.
“They will dress young, they will look young,” she said.
If they have an ID and the alcohol server asks for one, the decoy will show it. The decoy will never have a fake ID.
Minors seeking to buy some alcohol, on the other hand, will do whatever it takes to fool alcohol servers, Saladen said. She showed the class two photos via the meeting room’s TV screens. Though the photos looked like two different people, it was in fact the same 16-year-old girl in both – but in one of the photos, she looked much older.
“They’ll do anything that they can to make themselves look older,” she said. “Until they reach 21, then they do everything they can to make themselves appear younger.”
Seasock told Behind the Badge that this is the first of two trainings that will take place at the agency for businesses. The idea is to give them a refresher course before decoy operations are put into motion.
“We’re not tricking people, we’re not setting anybody up,” he said. “We’re out there working enforcement.”
He said the agency and ABC want to see a 100 percent success rate, because it means businesses are abiding by the law. The last time the agency used decoys in an alcohol sales police operation five years ago, businesses had about a 50 percent success rate.
“We’re talking about a lot of our established restaurants and grocery stores that have been here for a while,” he said. “I just think it wasn’t registering.”
He said this year he hopes that success rate is much higher.
“We want to give them the opportunity to come to the training and let them know everything they need to know,” said Seasock. “Everything’s in their favor, they have every chance to be successful.”