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Court Hearings (In Favor of Bouncers)

 

State-mandated bouncer training mulled

On a weekly basis, downtown bar employees are forced to go hands on with unruly patrons.

Though many Iowa City bar workers have been taught how to handle these situations, city and bar officials agree more training is never a bad thing.

Under a proposed bill, high-occupancy bars in Polk County - which includes the Des Moines area - would serve as a test pilot for requiring at least one bouncer to train in anger management and techniques for safely removing people from bars.

The Polk County pilot project would start Jan. 1, 2009 and end June 30, 2011. A report will be submitted to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2011, evaluating the effectiveness of the pilot project.

In the bill, high-occupancy bars are defined as those that hold more than 200 people. Many of the downtown Iowa City bars meet this definition.

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., already puts her employees through some training on fight situations. Her employees also undergo Training for Intervention Procedures, in which bartenders and servers learn how to identify and address an intoxicated person.

"We really urge [employees] not to handle the situation on their own," Cohen said.

All bouncers at the Industry, 211 Iowa Ave., go through hands-on training on how to legally and safely remove people from the building, said Sarah Henningfield, the bar's general manager.

An experienced bouncer trains each of the Industry's bouncers for three hours by asking participants to take turns acting out and responding to rowdy situations.

Under the bill, any time a bar holds an event for which it charges an admission fee of $5 or more and during which alcohol is served, at least one person trained in special security techniques would have to be working.

owa City City Councilor Connie Champion said the city would most likely welcome the requirement if it ever spread to Iowa City, but she noted that she thought the bars currently do a good job of keeping fights and disorderly customers under control.

"I know we have problems in our bars," she said. "But they are very good at calling police when necessary."

Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay agreed.

"The question is, should it be mandated by state lawmakers?" he said.

For nearly eight years, some politicians have pushed this legislation in response to the death of Charles Lovelady, who died in 2000 after a fight with two Des Moines Bouncers.

The training would also include techniques for safely removing people, use of force, civil rights, and recognizing of fake IDs. Lawmakers plan to set aside $15,000 for the eight-hour training program training program. The Iowa Workforce Development's division of labor services would be responsible for the program, which will cost no more than $50 per person.

 

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