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Review of alcohol in public sought in Sonoma

13 arrests on 4th of July prompt police chief to ask for greater restrictions


Sonoma’s police chief is asking the City Council to consider new restrictions on consuming alcohol in public following a raucous Fourth of July celebration that resulted in more than a dozen arrests.

In a memo to City Manager Linda Kelly, Chief Bret Sackett attributed the unruly behavior to large crowds, warm weather and Sonoma’s “liberal alcohol laws.”

As many as 10,000 people swarmed Sonoma for the day’s celebrations. Police made 13 arrests, and, in four of those cases, officers resorted to using force, the chief wrote.

Sonoma's 2012 Fourth of July parade (PD File).

Alcohol consumption is permitted in Sonoma’s public places from 11:30 a.m. until dusk, unless extensions are granted.

Sackett wrote that in his experience most cities prohibit the consumption of alcoholic beverages on public property except for special events.

He stated that while a ban on alcohol may not be consistent with Sonoma’s “heritage,” tighter regulations could address problems the city experiences on the Fourth of July and during other major events.

Sackett, who was unavailable for comment Friday, did not outline any specific changes to the city’s alcohol policy. The Sonoma City Council will address the issue at its meeting Monday night.

Sonoma Mayor Joanne Sanders said Friday that she is receptive to new restrictions on public alcohol consumption in the city, including at the popular Tuesday night farmers market on the plaza.

“It’s a little loose with the drinking,” she said.

She said she also supports Sackett’s request for more police and resources at next year’s Fourth of July event. She said the complaint she heard the most after this year’s event was about traffic jams following the fireworks show.

The city’s Fourth of July parade and plaza celebration are produced by the Sonoma Community Center. Beer and wine are sold on the plaza from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. by volunteers who are trained according to standards set by the state of California, said Toni Castrone, the center’s executive director.

Castrone said she’s never witnessed problems related to drinking, but she acknowledged she might not be aware of issues that happen after dark in other places.

Castrone said she would “absolutely go along” with any changes recommended by the city, including cutting off sales of alcohol earlier in the day.

Sackett wrote in his letter to the city that police had a particularly challenging time monitoring crowds in Depot Park, where people gathered to BBQ and watch fireworks.

He wrote that an early evening fight in the park involving about 20 young adults, some dressed in gang attire, led to a couple of arrests. He said deputies could have arrested more people for public intoxication were they not stretched thin by the number of calls for service.

Sackett said the Police Department had an average of 10 officers working on the Fourth — triple the number normally on duty — and that the city spent $6,000 on overtime for the additional personnel.

His request for additional resources for next year’s event includes three motorcycle officers and a transport van to take people who are arrested to the county jail in Santa Rosa.

He estimated those resources would increase the city’s costs by an additional $3,000.

(You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5366 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter: @deadlinederek)

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