We heard the outrage following the initial efforts from University of Iowa Public Safety to enforce the new tailgating laws prior to Iowa's home opener with Eastern Illinois. Local law enforcement gave out more than 100 citations for open container violations (including one to a 61-year-old man). There were numerous complaints here and elsewhere about police stepping far beyond their bounds in enforcement of regulations that hadn't been enforced in decades. Afterwards, countless fans complained to athletic director Gary Barta. This weekend, we learned what Barta did in response:
Barta told Green that he had been "inundated with phone calls and e-mails all weekend from hundreds of fans that had bad experiences." Most of those e-mails, Barta said, were related to "officer discretion" when it came to enforcing rules at tailgates.
"I had numerous e-mails that described officers using intimidation tactics in non-threatening environments," Barta said.
Barta goes on to list complaints, such as officers searching coolers and RVs as well as groups of officers "hovering over a group ... with no cause." Barta also says officers at one tailgate suggested they could smell marijuana where there allegedly was none present....
Barta said the complaints he received were not in line with what UI officials had in mind for the "Think Before You Drink" campaign, which aimed to target problematic gameday behavior, particularly alcohol-fueled issues.
"The focus going in was dangerous and over-the-top behavior," Barta wrote. "There are far too many complaints coming my way that suggest something completely different. We've taken a group that I believe could have helped us curb behavior and made them so angry they are against us."
Barta was clearly nonplussed with the complaints, and rightfully so; what Green sees as an opportunity to let his officers stretch their legs and write some tickets, Barta sees as unhappy customers. Later in the article, Green dismisses talk of the "police state" around Kinnick but admits that changes have been made. In particular, the ban on drinking games -- which, by some indications, basically included any game that could be played while holding a beer -- has been relaxed, as has the draconian enforcement of the music regulations. These are positive developments, and yet we're doing everything we can to stay off University-owned property for Saturday's game against Penn State, mostly because we saw the effects of UIPS' and ICPD's arbitrary enforcement of the rules this spring. I've been tossed from University parking lots for legally possessing beer. I've been told by UIPS that I could be arrested for violating a lease. I've watched a friend handcuffed and taken to jail for jokingly lobbing a beanbag at the feet of a cop. I've seen it in action, and I'm staying away, and I'm definitely not the only one.
Every year, there are new tailgating rules. For the most part, they are reasonable. This year's new regulations, as explained in August, were really no different: A cap on postgame festivities and warnings for all but the most egregious violators of the open container rules would be proper. But, as with all things related to law enforcement in Iowa City, we asked for reasonableness and sensibility and instead got overreaction and overenforcement. This has happened every year for over a decade, and it will happen again. As long as the fans are outraged and money is withheld from Barta's coffers, reasonableness will win out.