The first weekend back from Spring Break was a busy one for both students and the Brunswick Police Department (BPD). Thirteen students received alcohol-related court summons and one student received a warning between last Friday and Saturday nights. The unusually high number of summonses reflects an upward trend in student interaction with BPD and has caused anxiety among students.
This year, BPD was one of 25 Maine law enforcement agencies that was awarded an Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) grant by Dirigo Safety, LLC—a private organization that provides monetary support and training to law enforcement agencies in Maine.
According to the Dirigo Safety website, the primary focus of the EUDL program is to “systematically implement best or promising practices that attain the objectives of increasing the enforcement of underage drinking laws and enhancing research-based prevention planning.”
On Tuesday, BPD announced that, in addition to the EUDL grant, they department received a grant from the Maine Centers for Disease Control to focus on the enforcement of underage drinking laws in the months of April and May.
According to BPD’s Facebook post announcing the grant, the funds will go towards educating minors on the dangers of alcohol and “looking for violations and enforcing the laws as practical.”
The post mentioned that officers looking for violations may be plainclothes police officers.
Five of the summonses from last weekend were issued at Helmreich House (Helm) on Friday night at a registered party after a wellness check was requested.
At around 11:30 p.m. on Friday, the event host (E-host) at Helm called Bowdoin Security for a routine wellness check for an intoxicated student. Upon examination, Security concluded that a medical transport was necessary.
As is standard, two BPD officers arrived at Helm with paramedics from Brunswick Rescue.
At the time of BPD’s arrival, there were five students in the house: three underage students, who were friends of the transported student, the E-host and the alcohol host (A-host). The E-host was also underage.
Although there was no alcohol on the premises at the time of BPD’s arrival, BPD turned the conversation away from the details of the transported student to College House policies.
“She asked questions like: what it means to be an E-host, what it means to be an A-host, why we had those roles, what the house was, [who was] living in the house, how we could host this event,” said Kendra Clifton ’21, the E-host at Helm on Friday.
During the conversation with BPD officers, the three friends reported that the student had consumed alcohol at an undisclosed location before arriving at Helm. All five students said that the transported student had not consumed alcohol at Helm.
Clifton noted that it is not against College House policy to host events where both alcohol and minors are present, as long as the minors are not served.
After speaking with the officer, all five students present received a summons. Clifton received a criminal charge for furnishing a location for minors to consume alcohol. Simon Chow ’19, the A-host, received a criminal charge for furnishing alcohol to minors. The three additional students received civil charges for possession of alcohol by a minor.
“[The officer] decided that, because there was an event with alcohol served and intoxicated minors were present, I had furnished the place and [Chow] had furnished the alcohol,” said Clifton.
In the past, BPD has mostly issued summonses to students in response to noise complaints or visible violations of the law, such as students carrying open containers of alcohol. Neither happened during Friday’s party.
“[BPD] wasn’t there to investigate the party—[they were] there for the safety of a student, so there was really no need for this to happen,” said Clifton.
In the official statement from the College, Randy Nichols, director of safety and security, wrote:
“The College has been in communication with the police department in order to clarify what took place during this incident, and we won’t be commenting further until the police investigation has concluded. We are grateful to the student who called for a wellness check, and we continue to urge all students to contact security when they are concerned about the health and well-being of another student.”
The eight other summonses received by Bowdoin students last weekend were given late Saturday night. Six students were cited for alcohol law violations at Carlisle Apartments, known colloquially as Lighthouse. The police investigated the off-campus location after a noise complaint was reported.
In unrelated cases on Saturday, two minor students received summonses for carrying an open container. One student was cited on Harpswell Road near Chamberlain Street and the other was cited on Belmont Street.
Students of all class years have noticed the increase in interaction with BPD at both on- and off-campus events.
“In my four years here, I have noticed that BPD has been cracking down more on … College House parties,” said Chow. “With [the] Quinby House and Mac House Cold War [Party] that happened [last year] and then this past weekend, Helm House, I think that there has been an increase in surveillance and also cracking down.”
Chow raised concerns about whether Bowdoin students could continue to use the E- and A-host system to host events in light of these developments.
“I think there needs to be a reevaluation of College policies and also responsibility of where that lies,” he said.