The Utter Foolishness of Jim Coan’s Prohibition

There’s a story at the Gazette that’s both fine in its information, and revealing in how predictable Whitewater’s police chief, Jim Coan, is. He’s as unthinking and foolish as ever.

Recently, Whitewater’s police broke up a drinking party at a house in Whitewater, and cited over one-hundred partygoers for underage drinking. As I’ve mentioned, I’m no fan of a drinking culture. I see nothing appealing in it. (See, Citations and Drinking.)

Yet, I’ve been waiting for the story that would explain how the party was identified. That account is now published, at the GazetteXtra. See, Undercover students used to bust beer parties. (The print version uses the headline, “UW-W’s Party Snoopers.”)

The story’s come out over homecoming weekend, and Coan probably thinks that’s a clever deterrent against additional underage drinking. I’d use the expression that Coan’s ‘too clever by half’ in this regard, but the simpler expression is that he’s half-clever.

Consider Coan’s explanation for using undercover students:

To get a better view of large-scale and illegal beer bashes, police are sending undercover students to the parties, according to a search warrant recently returned to Walworth County Court.

The search warrant was used to gather evidence of beer barrels, beer bottles, cups, taps, money and other alcoholic beverages from a large-scale drinking party Oct. 21 at 928 W. Highland St., a few blocks from campus. Police issued 132 citations to partygoers on the night of the event….

Coan was reluctant to elaborate on his agency’s use of undercover students, but he warned that police would be on the hunt for illegal drinking parties.

“I think it’s safe to point out that young people never know who’s at their parties, and it might be undercover students,” Coan said.

That’s not safe to point out, and that’s the problem. A serious man would have said, “No comment.” Instead, Coan acknowledges the practice, one that apparently used young students, to gather information for law enforcement, in a situation that might have been dangerous for them.

Note the irony: Coan’s sure that young people shouldn’t drink, and that police resources should be used to stop that underage drinking, but he’s willing to use young people to collect evidence and offer testimony in those dangerous matters. If the dangers are so great, then surely so is placing them — rather than trained law enforcement officers — in the business of information gathering.

Coan just can’t see that, and rather than realize that he’s said something stupid — and done something stupid — he think’s he’s said and done something clever.

Wanting all the honor and deference in the world, Coan should at least do a bit of the serious and dangerous work he asks of others (including young civilians, rather than young-looking officers).

This is vigilance and courage on the cheap. There’s no surprise in this: leopards don’t change their spots, and Coan is as utterly foolish as he ever was.

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