Va. alcohol regulators change policy for undercover officers after student’s arrest

July 6, 2013

Officials with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control announced Friday that they are changing how they conduct undercover operations designed to catch underage drinkers.

At least one uniformed officer will accompany plainclothes officers when such an operation is being conducted, officials said. The change stems from an April incident in which a student at the University of Virginia was arrested for attempting to flee from undercover officers, who thought she bought a case of beer from a Harris Teeter supermarket. It turned out that Elizabeth Daly, 20, had bought a case of bottled water, cookie dough and ice cream for a sorority fundraiser.

Daly and her two roommates were not aware that the people who approached them in the store’s parking lot were law enforcement agents because they were not wearing uniforms, according to an account in the Daily Progress newspaper. When Daly attempted to drive away, she allegedly grazed two of the officers. She was charged with three felonies, including two counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and one count of eluding police, and spent the night and afternoon in jail. The charges were later dropped.

The incident drew a huge outcry from the U-Va. community, which forced the agency to reevaluate its procedures.

“It is the Department’s belief that this change will further clarify the nature of the stop by law enforcement and help put citizens who are approached at ease regarding the identity of the officer or officers,” the agency said in a statement. “The agency will determine whether additional policy or procedural changes are appropriate following the review.”

Spokeswoman Becky Gettings said that the incident is still under investigation and that the agency would comment further.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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