GALVESTON, TX – As the controversial new ban on smoking in Galveston continues to be discussed, a statement in the press last week by the city’s police chief that, “we’re going after them,” took me back to the old days when cops used to actually walk through bars and nightclubs as a routine matter.
The beat officers would go from bar to bar, get out of their patrol cars, and go inside. They would look around for anything or anyone suspicious, check the beer license (this was before liquor-by-the-drink was legal in Texas) and finding nothing they would leave.
However, they would often spot an individual they would recognize as a local criminal and check him or her out for outstanding warrants. If they got a ‘hit’ on him or her, off to jail they went. Same for anyone they found to be drunk in a bar.
This was especially prevalent during World War II and the Korean War when police in many jurisdictions had military police and Navy shore patrol officers riding with them to keep tabs on servicemen on shore leave. It was not unusual in those days for a police paddy wagon to backup to a barroom door and police would fill it up with bar patrons.
This policy was very unpopular, of course, with bar owners who raised all kinds of hell with city officials and police chiefs claiming the practice of uniformed cops popping in and out of their bars was ruining their businesses. They said customers would not come to a bar where cops came in routinely and checked peoples ID’s and claimed it was harrassment and intimidation of customers.
Owners also claimed that if the beat cop ‘got it in’ for a place, he would visit that place so often that no one would come back. They took their complaints to city hall.
Eventually so much political pressure was put on city leaders who in turn pressured police chiefs that the bar visits slowly went away. There was never an actual written policy issued by police chiefs but they let their officers know, silently, that frequent visits to these bars was not a good idea. Word was passed down for them to stay out of bars and nightclubs unless they were dispatched there on a call.
In recent years the practice of these ‘walk throughs’ by beat cops is rarely seen or heard of in most cities and towns and I doubt it will become the policy in Galveston in order to catch someone smoking a cigarette.
I believe, in time it will all go away. People will smoke most anywhere they wish and no one will pay any attention to it, including the police. However, like a defective tail light, it will give a police officer ‘probable cause’ to have a serious conversation with you and those converstations often lead to deep, dark secrets being revealed, like an outstanding warrant somewhere, or that pistol in your pocket that you aren’t licensed to have.
That’s the way I see it. How about you?