Cop’s Drunken Driving Crackdown Raises Bar Owners’ Ire
LAKE CITY, Mich. (AP) _ A police officer, whose aggressive pursuit of drunken drivers irritated some tavern owners and patrons but drew pleas from others to maintain his vigil, says he’s reconsidering his decision to resign.
″I’ve had a lot of people contact me and say ’Don’t leave now,‴ Officer Patrick Bunce said after a City Council meeting Monday night.
″I have every intention of resigning,″ said the 39-year-old officer. ″However, you can rest assured that if the powers that be in Lake City ask me to come back, I will take the job back.″
Bunce, who was hired in December 1985 as this northern Michigan resort town’s first law enforcement officer, plans to leave June 1 in a settlement reached with the council.
″I don’t want to go,″ he said. ″I was just doing my job. I don’t think I would change a thing if I had to do it over again.″
In a recent eight-month period, Bunce arrested 53 people for drunken driving and took home 79 others considered borderline drunken drivers, according to police records.
Tavern owners and others have complained. But about 60 people turned out at Monday night’s council meeting, and a group of women circulated a petition asking that he remain on the job. The council took no action on the request.
Bunce initially agreed to resign under a settlement that would continue paying his $15,600 annual salary for up to a year or until he found a new job. The deal also offered a lump sum settlement of $4,400 and would cover the difference for one year if his new job paid less than his Lake City post.
Bunce was offered the settlement because community divisiveness has made it difficult for him to work effectively, City Attorney Charles Parsons said.
Twenty-seven complaints have been filed against Bunce, but Parsons said none were investigated and there were no grounds for firing the officer.
Bunce’s foes believe otherwise. They say he’s abusive and overzealous in his enforcement of the law, waiting for people to commit petty infractions and then treating them roughly afterward.
″He has a tendency to pull anybody over who leaves a bar,″ said Gerry Olmstead, whose husband, Glenn, owns the Willard House tavern downtown.
″But it isn’t just the bar owners who complain, or the drinkers. He has harassed so many people in this town,″ she said. ″He once pulled a man out of a funeral procession because there was a light missing on his car.
″So many people are afraid of him.″
In Bunce’s view, Lake City residents just aren’t used to law enforcement.
″You have to make it clear that you can’t drive drunk,″ he said. ″As long as you treat everyone fairly and everyone the same, there’s no reason to do anything differently.″