Spectator editorial: Police problem

It never seems too difficult to tell where Eau Claire police are patrolling on any given weekend on Water Street. However, a recent incident involving two undercover officers raises the question of whether the police are putting themselves in unnecessary danger while keeping order on the bar-lined strip.

According to a March 14 article in The Spectator, a taser gun was used by the officers March 5 in an attempt to contain a fight between themselves and two men on Water Street.

The Issue
Two plain-clothed Eau Claire police officers used tasers after being attacked on Water Street March 5.

The men were later charged with battery of a police officer, obstructing an officer and disorderly conduct. At the time of the incident, both officers were wearing street clothing.

Because the police were not easily identifiable at the time of the incident, it is unknown whether the charged men were aware they were assaulting police officers. In other words, because they were out of uniform, the men more than likely could not tell the law enforcement officials from other Water Street patrons.

If the men could have easily recognized the officers, the incident, more than likely, wouldn’t have occurred at all.

Unfortunately, when some people leave bars on Water Street, they are often of an unrational mindset. It is for that reason that police patrol is essential and appreciated. However, for police to try to regulate the area surrounding Water Street while out of uniform only invites chaos such as the March 5 occurrence.

While undercover officers can provide benefits in terms of curbing illegal drinking, to have such officers patrolling and attempting to control Water Street crowds is neither safe nor smart.

An easy solution to reduce the likelihood of a similar situation in the future is to have uniformed police control the crowd, and not place plain-clothed cops in harm’s way.