Was bar sting a payback?

By Charles Sercombe

There is some serious fallout from last month’s bar sting in town.

In September, the police department sent underage decoys to several bars to see if they would get served without being asked to produce ID. Bartenders at three bars fell for the ruse, including a bar owned by City Councilmember Tom Jankowski.

Jankowski owns Whiskey in the Jar but was not bartending the night of the sting. Also included in the sting was the New Dodge Lounge, a bar owned by City Councilmember Cathie Gordon.

Gordon’s bartender asked for ID from the decoys and declined to serve them when they couldn’t produce one.

The timing of the stings has come under question since they were conducted just days after a controversial discussion on purchasing bullet proof vests for the entire Police Department. Jankowski initially suggested that officers be required to use their clothing allowance to buy the vests since they refused to help the city reduce its deficit by taking salary and benefit cuts.

The vests were being funded by the department’s drug forfeiture fund and a grant from the Justice Department, meaning there was no cost to the city’s general budget.

Gordon voted in support of Jankowski’s request to hold up the vote on the vests. There was a time issue, however, and the final vote came just shy of a deadline to tap into the Justice Department’s grant.
The delay angered a number of officers, including Police Chief Mark Kalinowski who accused Jankowski of playing with the lives of officers.

Days later, the Police Department conducted the bar sting. The detective in charge of the sting, Dan Misiak, denied there was any connection with the sting and the vest issue. He said the bars picked out were based on complaints filed with the state’s Liquor Control Commission.

Flash forward to this past Monday when the bartenders who were ticketed were arraigned in Hamtramck 31st District Court, where City Attorney James Allen was acting as city prosecutor, a role he normally plays.
Before the court proceedings, Misiak confirmed he had a “heated” argument with Allen after Allen said he wanted to look into police protocol in the sting. Misiak said he resents the insinuation that the sting was not conducted on the up and up and was politically motivated.

“It was highly unethical and not in the best interest of the city,” Misiak said of the allegation.

Misiak added that the attorney for the police officers’ union is looking into the matter.

Allen refused to comment on the matter, saying he does not comment on pending cases. Gordon also declined to comment.

Jankowski lashed out against the sting, saying it was likely connected with the vest issue. He also criticized the sting operation in general, saying officers abuse the program to rack up overtime pay.

The LCC gives the city $25,000 a year to conduct stings.

“I see it as nothing more than an overtime slush fund,” Jankowski said.

Jankowski also said there are witnesses who saw the underage decoys accept alcoholic drinks and drink them. He said there needs to be an investigation into how this sting was conducted.

There is a connection between Allen and Jankowski. When Jankowski was mayor a few years ago he brought in Allen’s law firm to take over legal services.

The question some insiders have raised privately is whether there is a conflict of interest for Allen to serve as prosecutor because of his relationship with Jankowski.

Jankowski dismissed that notion, saying: “Not in this case with the facts that there are.”

A pretrial in the matter is scheduled for Nov. 8 in Hamtramck 31st District Court.

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