Alcohol forum draws few students
Despite all the recent controversy surrounding Hanover Police's "internal possession" policy, only 30 people attended last night's alcohol forum organized by the Substance Abuse Advisory Committee.
Many of the audience members were College administrators and town officials. Few Dartmouth students were present other than Student Assembly President Danielle Moore '95, who was asked to speak as a representative of the student body.
Much of last night's forum revolved around questions from the audience for Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone and Town Manager Cliff Vermilya.
Student questions primarily focused on police use of the AlcoSensor, a hand-held testing device used to determine levels of alcohol intoxication.
"Concerning the AlcoSensor, it has been used since January 1994 on the streets twice," Giaccone said to clarify rumors of wide usage of this device.
Jorge Motoshige '96 questioned the legality of forcing a suspect to use the AlcoSensor.
A Hanover Police Directive dated Sept. 1, 1988, copies of which were handed out at last night's forum, states a suspect may not be forced to take the test before he is arrested but a recent State Supreme Court decision permits police to force a suspect to take the test after he has been arrested.
But Hanover Police does not force individuals to take that test, Giaccone said.
The evidence from an AlcoSensor is "non-testimonial, non-intrusive, and therefore not constitutionally protected" according to U.S. Supreme Court decision Schemerber vs. California (1966) and New Hampshire Supreme Court State vs. Berry (1981).
Although rumors suggest that the result of an AlcoSensor test can directly lead to an arrest and conviction, Hanover Police deny this. "The result of an AlcoSensor Test is but one piece of evidence that a court will consider in a specific case" Vermilya said.
Jim Brennan '96 raised the question of how Hanover Police chooses who to stop and how they determine whether or not they are arrested. "We do not randomly stop individuals. Some precipitating event has caused the officer to make an inquiry" Giaccone said.
"The procedure that an officer follows varies in a case to case basis", Giaccone said. The officer makes the stop, has a conversation with the individual and from these questions tries to determine whether or not the individual is intoxicated and if it is safe for the person to go, Giaccone added.
Out of the 118 Hanover Police "contacts" with Dartmouth students only 79 have lead to arrests. The remaining students were released from custody because of lack of evidence. Of those 79 students, about 50 percent chose to attend the Diversion Program to avoid a record of arrest, according to Vermilya.
Head of the Alcohol Diversion Program Richard VanWart commented that the two-day $150 program focuses on understanding why one drinks and how he or she fits into the social spectrum.
The suspicion of a "hidden agenda" on how Dartmouth students are treated by Hanover Police was raised by Moore and quickly denied by Giaccone. In regard to alcohol related arrests "statistics show that we have an even mix between non-Dartmouth and Dartmouth students" Giaccone said.
With respect to what the College would do if a student was arrested, Dean of the College Lee Pelton said, "We do not intervene on behalf of students who have been arrested."
On the College's position on underage drinking Pelton said, "Not only do we have a moral responsibility but a legal responsibility to enforce the laws of underage drinking."
The forum took place last night at 7:30 p.m. at Alumni Hall. Head of the Community Substance Abuse Advisory Committee Sharon Nordgren moderated the forum.