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Chief Tom King’s Perspective on Alcohol: Part 1

There is always a significant chance that a student will have an interaction with a police officer of the State College Borough. More than likely it will be while in an intoxicated state, as there are almost 1,500 citations a year issued for alcohol-related crimes.

As part of a continuing conversation on solutions to the culture of alcohol abuse, Onward State sat down with State College Borough Police Chief Tom King to gain perspective on the role of the police in resolving this challenge.

Chief King seemed genuinely exasperated by the number of people who are getting excessively drunk, doing so with a frequency (now as a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday night phenomena) that has increased markedly during his 30-year tenure with the department. The amount that students drink in a night has increased as well, creating undue risks for the community.

The department simply does not have the humanpower to cite thousands of students a night, so in order to be cited you must do something “to bring attention to yourself,” such as endangering yourself or others or causing a nuisance.

If you do want to get stopped, he recommends that you:

  • urinate in public
  • have an open container of alcohol
  • pass out in a yard
  • start a fight
  • be slouched over a friend’s shoulder
  • “It isn’t like we’re stopping the person walking down the street minding his/her own business and giving them a PBT [portable Breathalyzer test],” King noted. Surprisingly, only about 20% of the fraternities present a recurring problem, with about 10% having an “animal house” style with in excess of 500 people at a party, multiple times a week.

    When police question underage people they stop, they will attempt to find out who served them- whether it is a fraternity, apartment or business, and pursue furnishing charges. This is one newer strategy for reducing the dangerous drinking in town. A vehicle for this is The Source Investigation Project, a $42,000 (split with PSU) program funded by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which is used mainly for police overtime. The intent of the program is to systematically pursue the sources of alcohol on the weekends. Undercover officers conduct surveillance of large parties, which is used to prepare and execute search warrants.

    Chief King’s simple message to students is “be safe, reasonable, not overindulge, respect themselves healthwise and other people and their private property…[one] might go out and have a few drinks, but as long as [one] doesn’t get drunk and out of control and stay safe and not lose [their] inhibitions… I think they would be fine.” The problem is not alcohol per se, but “it is all about behaviors as a result of excessive drinking.”

    This is the first in an occasional series. Part two of this interview, focusing on quality of life issues in State College, will be posted soon.

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