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Moorhead police chief pushes for 'disruptive intoxication' law

MOORHEAD – City leaders here will soon consider establishing a new law allowing police to arrest people for “disruptive intoxication.”

With detox beds in short supply, it’s an ordinance that will help police better control publicly drunken individuals who are causing problems, Police Chief David Ebinger told the City Council in a non-voting meeting Tuesday.

“We don’t have a place where we can put people who are rowdy, who are intoxicated where they can be controlled, other than detox, and even then sometimes it’s too much of a strain on their staff,” Ebinger said. “This gives us an option to put them in incarceration until they can sober up and take care of themselves.”

The council will have an official first reading of the ordinance Monday.

The law would allow police to arrest drunken individuals who are publicly causing a “disruption,” which is defined by the ordinance as including loud, boisterous yelling, urinating in public, lewd or combative conduct, harassing or offensive conduct, being found unconscious in a public place due to intoxication, or refusing to leave a private property while intoxicated.

Current law doesn’t allow police to arrest publicly drunken individuals. Ebinger said sometimes if they are brought to detox, they become combative and could face even more serious charges for assault or damaging property.

This law would address a common public complaint, he said, and it would have been used maybe about 100 times last year.

“Somebody is intoxicated and there’s no place else where people will take care of them, sometimes a jail’s the best place for them,” Ebinger said. “Not because we want to charge them criminally, but because we want somebody responsible.”

If passed by the council, disruptive intoxication would be a petty misdemeanor, with a fine that would be less than the fees for going to detox, Ebinger said.

Councilman Steve Gehrtz asked if the Clay County Jail can handle the load; Ebinger said it can. He said the jail has trouble finding long-term beds, but short-term holdings will be manageable.

After the meeting, Ebinger said the law would be a “last resort,” and that police normally try to seek out a responsible adult to take care of a publicly drunken person.

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