2016 Control State Best Practices Winner: Best Enforcement Program
In February, the Virginia ABC launched a training program aimed at empowering local law enforcement agencies to better respond to alcohol-related problems in their jurisdictions. Administered by the National Liquor Law Enforcement Program and funded by the NHTSA, the program provides instruction on the state’s laws, regulations and strategies for their enforcement.
Agents from the VABC’s enforcement division begin presenting a four-hour Alcohol Law Enforcement Specialist Training (ALEST) to select departments, and the program was later retooled into a concise and flexible format thanks to the grant funding.
“The concept of a ‘roll call’ presentation is new to us, and it permits us to reach more departments and impact a broad swath of the law enforcement community,” says Senior Special Agent David Huff. “We only have 100 sworn agents at the department, in a state with 18,000 licensed establishments and a robust hospitality industry. We rely on local law enforcement partners to address areas of concern related to use and abuse of alcoholic beverages.”
ALEST provides a customized menu of training options based on the individual needs of a law enforcement agency. Training topics include preparing administrative charges, fraudulent ID detection, nuisance abatement, community coalitions, licensee training programs and underage buyer compliance programs.
“The program has exceeded our expectations in terms of popularity,” Huff says. “We’ve already visited 20 agencies in the first six months of the program, and before the year is done we’ll have reached more than 50 – totaling hundreds of officers.”
The training program supports recent recommendations from the Virginia ABC Enforcement Expert Review Panel, including a renewed focus on ABC licensee regulatory matters and the establishment of stronger relationships among local and campus law enforcement.
“Virginia ABC sought, and was awarded, the NLLEA grant due to its commitment to engage with local law enforcement to form an effective partnership in enforcing Virginia’s ABC laws,” says ABC Chief Operating Officer Travis Hill. “The enforcement training program is just one of the ways we’re giving effect to the recommendations and guidance put forward under Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order 40.”
The grant program expired in November, but Huff says the department plans to continue its local outreach going forward.
“The benefit to us is reinforcement,” he says. “When we began this program, we wanted to both reach agencies we have a good working relationship with so we can develop them further, and create a mutually beneficial relationship with agencies that were under-served.”
Evaluation forms completed at the end of the training show favorable reactions from officers, who indicate they welcome the in-person training and want more.
“It wasn’t without precedent that we’ve reached out to these stakeholders, but the funding allowed us to create handouts, educational materials and reference sheets that we could put in the hands of local officers to assist them,” Huff says. “This has ushered in a new era of cooperation and understanding between the ABC and local enforcement agencies.”