The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
By KHARIS LUND, Staff Reporter
Published: February 13, 2013
Deb, a 19-year-old sophomore, once walked into a convenience store and tried to buy liquor with her ID. The store owner was furious and told her to go stand in a corner.
Little did he know, Deb was just doing her job.
“It was so funny,” said Deb, who works with the Washington State Liquor Control Board and law enforcement as an investigative aide.
Deb’s job is to try buying alcohol from an establishment to see if they will sell to people under the age of 21. Her last name is being withheld because of the sensitive nature of her job.
“[The] owner looked at my ID and then back at me, and he got really angry and was like ‘you can’t buy here, and I’m going to call the cops.’… He told me to go stand in the corner and wait while he called the cops,” Deb said.
While the store owner was on the phone, Deb got up and left the store. She said he looked at her strangely, wondering why she was leaving when he still had her ID card.
With her usual casual attire of riding boots, jeans and a button-up, Deb plays an unassuming customer. “My ID is a vertical ID card, and if the bar or club owners obey the law, they will ask to see my ID card and not sell [to me],” she said.
If the establishment does sell her alcohol, the police come in, and the owner is fined.
“Depending on how many times they’ve sold to minors, they can also get their liquor license revoked or suspended,” she said.
Deb also occasionally attempts to buy alcohol from supermarkets. These are referred to as compliance checks.
“I started working for the Liquor Control Board five years ago,” Deb said.
Deb’s neighbor, who was an officer, told her she was the right age, and since they needed more investigative aides, she helped her put in an application.
Five years later, Deb said she loves her job.
“I still love my job,” Deb said. “And when I don’t have to go in and bust people, I get to do my homework on the job.”
Carpenter said the scope of the investigative aide program is large, with several aides regularly helping officers with compliance checks.
“[The investigative aides] are individuals from 18 to 20 years old,” Carpenter said. “Compliance checks are proven tools to reduce the sale of alcohol to minors.”
The businesses that the officers and investigative aides conduct compliance tests on include restaurants, grocery stores, liquor stores, neighborhood markets, taverns, wine bars and sports/entertainment facilities.
Deb generally works on the weekends and usually works about twice a month. But when she does work, she’ll typically go to 10 to 20 places a night.
“They can be in different cities and counties, too,” she said.
“Depending on where I am for the night, I might have to do anywhere from only a few to 20 or more,” she said.
Adding to the long hours on weekends, Deb said the job can be frightening, despite the presence of armed officers.
“Sometimes the people will follow us back to the car, and the cops will have to step in,” she said. “There have also been times when drunk guys follow me out to the car and say, ‘I want to see your face.’”
Deb described a job where she went with a boy and another girl to check a club. Deb said she usually works with other aides, since group settings look more realistic.
“We walk up, and there’s this huge bouncer guy at the entrance to the club,” she said. “We see him look over at the owner and give him a nod.”
After that, the bouncer checked their IDs.
“He let me and the other girl in, but he checked the guy’s ID and told him to get lost,” she said.
Because the guy couldn’t get in, Deb and the other girl left, and the bouncer and owner followed them outside.
“Three cop cars were in a ring, and we got behind them,” she said
The cops then proceeded to turn their bright headlights on to obscure the view of the owner and his bouncer. They told them not to come any closer.
“It was a little bit scary,” Deb said.
Deb said that the owner and bouncer backed off, and everyone went home safely.
Deb said that she will likely continue to work for the Liquor Control Board until she turns 21, and after that, she has the possibility of becoming a Liquor Control Board Officer.
As an officer, she would work to enforce state liquor and tobacco laws.