Whiteman undergoes first-time compliance checks

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Montse Ramirez
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The room was filled with 25 men wearing polo shirts and khaki pants, high and tight haircuts and stern faces. Small creases formed as they pulled their eyebrows together, in thought at various points during the training.

The police officers from Whiteman and the surrounding communities meant business while they trained on compliance investigations at this Air Force Global Strike Command base June 9.

Compliance investigations check to see if alcohol sellers are effectively preventing alcohol sales to people under the age of 21.

"Compliance check investigations are a cost-effective way to control youth's access to alcohol from retail outlets," said Lt. Mike Pryor, Tucson, Arizona, Police Department consultant and training instructor. "They involve the use of underage buyers by law enforcement agencies as 'volunteers' to test retailers."

June 9 was the first time in Air Force history that compliance checks have been able to be performed on base, said Lieutenant Pryor.

There are three ways youth obtain alcohol, according to Lieutenant Pryor. They can steal it, have it given to or purchased for them by an adult, or by purchasing it themselves with the help of retailers or the use of a fake ID.

"Our ultimate goal for this training and exercise is to promote responsible adult behavior," he said. "If retailers are responsible, we can limit the ways in which youth obtain alcohol."

Once the compliance training for the officers was complete, a group of underage volunteers were selected to begin the exercise investigation. If any retailers on base sold them an alcoholic beverage, the 509th Security Forces Squadron wouldn't take legal action, but instead left it up to the establishment managers to provide corrective action.
The first step in the investigation was to age-verify the volunteers to ensure that the operation was conducted fairly, with all underage participants.

"Retailers may suggest that the volunteer looked older than 21 and that's why their employee didn't ask for identification," Lieutenant Pryor said. "The purpose of the investigation is not to trick employees."

The volunteers were taken to a crowded base location where they asked 10 random people how old they thought each volunteer looked. If the age-range of a volunteer was lower than 21, the volunteer was used for stage two of the investigation.

Once the younger-looking volunteers were selected, they were told they would go into one of the base facilities and try to purchase an alcoholic beverage. They were allowed to carry one form of identification stating their real birth date and if the clerk asked their age, they were not allowed to lie.

One volunteer was told he looked 17 years-old average, making him an ideal candidate for the testing operation. When he entered the base retail outlet, he headed toward the aisle with beer, grabbed a six-pack and proceeded to check-out.

The clerk asked for his ID and looked at it, but after giving it back to the minor, she continued with the transaction.

The minor then told the clerk he had left his wallet in his car and left, to avoid having to actually buy the product. Meanwhile, several officers were observing the operation.
The manager pulled the clerk aside and told her of the mistake she had made and the how serious it was. Following the incident, an officer informed the manager of the situation.

This was not the only incident where a clerk failed to verify the age of the purchaser.
"Although this is not an ideal situation, knowing is half the battle," said Lieutenant Pryor. "Now we know we need to conduct training on 100 percent ID check procedures at base facilities."

Checks will be held on an ongoing basis to ensure compliance, identify training needs and promote responsible sale of alcohol.

"Compliance checks send a message to our community that law enforcement cares about responsible and lawful sales of alcohol," he said. "Publicizing the results of the investigation raises community awareness and helps to change or reinforce community norms about underage drinking."

By assessing the level of underage availability in the community, military supervisors can lower the number of Article 15s. This also lowers the amount of personnel removed from mission critical positions until criminal or alcohol issues are resolved, according to Lieutenant Pryor.

This project was supported by funding made available through a Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Missouri Department of Public Safety.