Workplace Anger Over Police Screenings


Anaheim police are under fire for requiring bartenders, janitors and other employees of alcohol-selling establishments to carry city-issued identification cards as well as provide officers with fingerprints and personal information.

A city ordinance requiring the ID cards has been on the books since 1965. But officials said an influx of new jobs--many related to Disney’s resort expansion--has prompted them to “re-educate” area businesses about the rules.

The ordinance requires employees to complete an application asking about their citizenship and arrest history, and whether they have any marks or scars. The employees are also fingerprinted and photographed at the Police Department.


The policy is unusual. The Los Angeles Police Department and several other large departments, including those in Long Beach and Huntington Beach, said they don’t require workers to hold ID cards or keep files on them.

Union officials said they didn’t know about the law until a few weeks ago, when they began getting complaints from workers, who decried the requirements as unfair and a violation of their rights.

“Why do we need an ID card to sell a glass of chardonnay?” said Alastair Baird, 36, an employee at Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33 who said he was frisked by police officers before being fingerprinted at the jail. “I’m just a waiter, and it felt like a criminal process.”

An attorney for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union has asked the Anaheim City Council to rescind the ordinance at its meeting next Tuesday and was joined by other groups in denouncing the ID cards.

“It gives police unbridled discretion to crack down on people they don’t like,” said Dan Tokaji, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “This is not a police state. . . . You don’t have to have an identification card to live, work and enjoy the benefits of freedom in our country.”

Those who do not have the laminated ID card are guilty of a misdemeanor and could be fined. In addition, some employers have threatened to fire workers who do not have the card, said union spokesman John Earl.


Police deny that they are attempting to gather intelligence and emphasized that the information will simply be kept on file in case it is needed as part of a criminal investigation.

“Right now, it is our belief that the ordinance is legal and constitutional, but the city attorney’s office is reviewing it to look into whatever issues are being expressed,” Sgt. Rick Martinez said.

Police run a warrants check on those required to hold ID cards but do not conduct fuller background investigations, he added. The information is not passed on to employers or immigration authorities.

“We are very sensitive to the INS issues in this city,” Martinez said. “None of this would ever go to INS. Our chief is very adamant about this. This has nothing to do with citizenship status.”

Baird, the waiter at the Disneyland club, said he understands that the officers who took his mug shot and fingerprinted him were only doing their jobs, but he believes the ordinance is “over the top.”

When he told his co-worker, Carolyn Pelcak, about the application process, she reported it to union officials. Many employees have decided not to get ID cards until the issue is resolved with the city.


Other establishments in Anaheim said the police have visited them regarding the ID cards in recent years. Employees at Linbrook Bowl said police cracked down on them in 1998. Though the bowling alley has been open for more than 40 years, managers said they were unaware of the rules until police showed up demanding to see ID cards.


When the employees could not produce them, police issued them citations. The bowling alley’s bar was also shut down for the night, manager John Haveles said. Ever since then, the ID cards have become a condition of employment.

“We don’t agree with it, but we’re complying,” Haveles said.

Francesca Denatale, a bartender at the bowling alley, said she paid a fine of about $75.

“I think it’s discriminatory that the field I work in has to be subjected to that,” she said.

University of Southern California professor Erwin Chemerinsky, who specializes in constitutional law, said it may be difficult to overturn the ordinance because government is typically given great latitude in requiring professional licenses.

“I think the legal challenge to some of it will be difficult, but I am very troubled by this because it really is an invasion of privacy,” Chemerinsky said.


Times staff writer Stan Allison contributed to this report.