Sac Town revelers along K Street seem oblivious to new coordinated efforts by the Sacramento police, city officials, pubs, clubs and bars to deploy new layers of security and preparedness which, well, probably account for the harmony on this Friday evening in March.
Note that it’s a good thing that these nocturnals feel safe and not over-policed.
But also note that Entertainment Permit holders in what is called the 10th and K Street Security Collaborative have been working hard to up the ante on safety in the area. E-Permit holders throughout Sacramento are assessed extra money and asked to provide additional security and follow certain protocols because of venue capacity and the sometimes-passionate behavior of their gregarious, DJ loving, table dancing clientele.
It is because of the kinetic energy of the K Street corridor and other downtown entertainment districts that there is an E-team Unit of the Sacramento Police Department. It is headed up by Sgt. Lane Polete, a big, wide drink of Sac PD law enforcement, a veteran specimen that party goers would be ill advised to intentionally tangle with.
Sgt. Polete and his officers are to Sacramento nightclubs and restaurants what Star Wars was to the Cold War, what the Sequester was supposed to be to Congress: a deterrent, a presence bearing peace equipped with human nature radar that detects your errant coordinates of conduct before you even think about doing that stupid thing.
“Did you hear what that kid called me?” Sgt. Polete asks on this Friday night. “He called me Boss! Huh, Huh!”
If that kid’s semi-nervous and naïve lack of respect in front of Social nightclub is the worst thing that happens and the evening escapes the Night Team news, it will go in the books as a victory. But one just never knows what could erupt along K and 10th where the homeless; shivering ladies in tight, short skirts; and buffed-out dudes strutting in Ed Hardy denim converge with the sparks of liquor, love and light-rail trains.
“Ten years ago, the city adopted an entertainment ordinance and established a process for obtaining an entertainment permit, so when locations wanted to offer DJs or dancing, etc., there was a permit process,” explains Sgt. Polete. “It takes a lot of police manpower. Patrol teams (alone) were kind of taxed to cover these. So, we developed a team of officers called the E-Team. Working very closely with owners and operators, we try to support them and balance that with public safety.”
And, 10 years ago there were a lot more fights and nightlife disturbances in Downtown Sac, according to Sgt. Polete, who says he appreciates the collaboration of the city and the willingness of club owners to cooperate with a pretty well-thought-out best practices security plan that involves everybody from the bouncers to hired security guards to bar managers in this four-block area between I and J Streets, and 9th and 11th Streets. Everybody is “all in” because stakeholders know there are two things patrons require of a good night on the town: no trouble, and no vibe indicating that “The Man” is watching.
March was the month Sgt. Polete, city officials and the Downtown Sacramento Partnership began to lead the K and 10th Street Security Collaborative down a new and experimental path to find that sweet spot where security and revelry add up to mostly good times.
The group of owners, city regulators and business boosters agreed to convert some of the bars’ hired security guards to a dedicated team of two off-duty Sacramento police officers and their squad car, which will always be nearby.
This latest ripple of vigilance was in the works well before the New Years Eve shootings in Old Sacramento and before the recent weekend beating death at 18th and P Streets. It was not in response to any particular incident, but rather designed to foster the safety and momentum of the area, says Dion Dwyer of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.
“Our goal was to make sure this is a safe entertainment district,” said Dwyer, explaining that the E-Permits require club owners to provide guards at a ratio determined by their occupancy. There is general agreement that the amped-up visibility of Sac PD and their squad car is having the desired effects. During the March weekend dress rehearsals, participating clubs were even issued radios to help with response time if trouble is detected.
The club managers regularly attend forums put on by Sgt. Polete on best practices for managing patrons and situations that can arise within or just outside the doors of their clubs.
“This is possible only because of the openness and collaboration of the stakeholders: the city of Sacramento, Sacramento Police Department and the club owners,” says Dwyer.
David Brattmiller, general manager of the three side-by-side-by-side clubs District 30, Pizza Rock and Dive Bar, said the first night of patrols were too invasive, with police supervisors and regular patrol cars driving by often to check out the program. Since then, “they’ve had it just right.”
Surrounding Brattmiller’s restaurants are other clubs and eateries with a potential combined occupancy that officials estimate could top 2,000. And these crowds are often on the move.
As Sgt. Polete walks the corridor, he checks in with some property managers, neither of whom would agree to be identified for this story.
One flat out says he’s not seeing enough of the new officers or their squad car. But the other conveys to Sgt. Polete in effusive terms that he is delighted with the new arrangement. He says every time he looks outside he is pleased to see a Sac PD presence.
“Thanks for your thoughts. We are early into this and that is beneficial to know how we are doing,” Sgt. Polete tells both parties, adding that the new radios (which at that time had not been deployed) are sure to improve communication and response time. “We’re going to get it right.”
The mostly youthful crowds don’t begin to arrive en mass until after 11 p.m. Some are content to just amble into Dive Bar and check out the mermaids, others opt for the second-floor Social patio with open-air views of the street below.
Last call comes before liquor sales end at 2 a.m. The clubs are allowed to stay open until 3 a.m. so revelers can dispatch in trickles rather than waves, or transition from cinnamon whiskey Fireball shots at District 30 to slices of pie at Pizza Rock.
And that’s when the stakeholders of the 10th and K Street Collaborative can take a deep breath, knowing the night is nearly over.
“It’s a good feeling having the officers there,” Brattmiller says, having upgraded his opinion of the new initiative for three weekends now. “I like having them around.”
The scene was right out of a TV cop drama. Shots rang out. A crowd ducked for cover. The bad guys sped off in a getaway car. The incident in a Sacramento shopping mall last year was real life. But just like on television, the case was wrapped up in three hours, with the bad guys in jail and the car impounded.