Some Osage Beach business owners say they are afraid of the local police force. A newly formed citizens group announced its presence to the Osage Beach Board of Aldermen Thursday night, calling themselves the Lake Area Law Enforcement Review Board.


“There is fear. People are afraid to go out to social events. We are afraid to go out to bars. We are afraid to go out to dinner. We are afraid to go visit our friends. We are afraid to enjoy our lake,” Juda Schell told the aldermen.


Fed up with what they believe to be excessive searches for drunk drivers, the business owners want to fight back by raising their concerns with police behavior to the city government. Schell referenced a law enforcement review board in Columbia that is officially affiliated with the city and the Columbia Police Department.


“We want rational and reasonable police protection. We have a problem in Osage Beach. The image we are creating is not tourist friendly or local friendly,” Schell said.


Some Osage Beach business owners say they are afraid of the local police force. A newly formed citizens group announced its presence to the Osage Beach Board of Aldermen Thursday night, calling themselves the Lake Area Law Enforcement Review Board.

“There is fear. People are afraid to go out to social events. We are afraid to go out to bars. We are afraid to go out to dinner. We are afraid to go visit our friends. We are afraid to enjoy our lake,” Juda Schell told the aldermen.

Fed up with what they believe to be excessive searches for drunk drivers, the business owners want to fight back by raising their concerns with police behavior to the city government. Schell referenced a law enforcement review board in Columbia that is officially affiliated with the city and the Columbia Police Department.

“We want rational and reasonable police protection. We have a problem in Osage Beach. The image we are creating is not tourist friendly or local friendly,” Schell said.

Osage Beach Police Chief David Severson said the use of designated drivers has grown steadily over the past five years.

“We certainly do not want to drive business away, but on the other hand, this is not about generating revenue for the bars,” Severson said.

Severson said the Osage Beach Police Department has a policy that stops officers from “sitting on” bars. The chief also cited the department’s traffic stop statistics.

"I know perception is reality but I would like to remind the board of our actual numbers, of the numbers of our car stops, the number of citations, the number of arrests have consistently been tracking downward for the last five years,” Severson said.

Bootlegger’s Saloon owner Gary Tompkins told the Board of Aldermen that the concerns are not just with the Osage Beach Police Department.

“It’s not just Osage Beach. When you throw the Highway Patrol with their stepped-up presence and Camden County with their stepped-up presence and everything you read in the blogs or in print is about the new stimulus money that we got to get after these drunk drivers and more of a DWI presence at the lake — that perception is driving a lack of tourists to the Lake,” Tompkins said.

“I can’t speak for the Highway Patrol, but I know that one number that you can’t escape is the fact that one out of every 10 drivers that they stop is impaired and is arrested. You can’t escape the fact that driving under the influence is a huge problem at the lake,” Severson said.

Mexicali Blues owner Chad Kautz told the aldermen that he felt as though he was watching tourists leave the area, never to return.

“I talk to tourists every day. I hear from them that they are not coming back. This is their final trip to the lake. They are selling their homes, they are selling boats, they are getting out. They are afraid to go out. They are afraid to go to dinner, to have two drinks, and drive home,” Kautz said.

A total of six business owners addressed the Board of Aldermen and identified themselves as part of the Lake Area Law Enforcement Review Board. One alderman pointed out that Osage Beach has a standing committee, the Osage Beach Citizens Advisory Board, that could do something productive with their concerns.

“My understanding is that was one of the intentions we had was that group being there for anything that would come about that we may need input on,” Alderman Kevin Rucker said.

One speaker defended the actions of the police department and its efforts to curb DWI offenses.

“Very honestly, it comes down to trying to save lives, and sometimes enforcement becomes an unpopular thing. And that’s where the police chief or the supervisor has to answer to the public in regards to how enforcement is taken,” Bud Balke of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said.

The concerned group did not elaborate on future plans to meet or address city governments in the future. Some of the speakers noted that they did not intend to become angry, but that they wanted their concerns about DWI enforcement’s impact on the local economy and tourism heard.

“These are things that aren’t necessarily wrong, but the approach you are taking with the police around here — the impression is what’s important, and the impression is what’s driving away you livlihood,” attorney Sam Trapp told the board.

“We need to work together as a group (...) because we can all win. We can all get our customers home safe and back to their jobs,” Tompkins said.

Chief Severson told the Board of Aldermen that he would continue reviewing traffic stop records, audio recordings and video at random, which is standard operating procedure.

Contact this reporter at rance.burger@lakesunonline.com.