The Edmonds Police Department is defending itself after its undercover investigation of a bikini barista coffee stand drew condemnation and sarcastic comments nationwide.
Most of the public comments centered on the investigation’s nine-month time frame, which the police say doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of time officers spent on the case.
It was in October that the EPD, responding to public comments, began its investigation of three Java Juggs Espresso stands, including one in Edmonds. It ended recently with the arrest on June 30 of business owner Carmela Panico and three employees in Edmonds and could be facing charges that include prostitution and unlawful exposure. Some of the violations allegedly involved physical contact with a barista in exchange for money.
“This investigation was a response to complaints from Edmonds citizens,” said Sgt. Don Anderson of the EPD. Anderson is a spokesman for the department whose official title is Professional Standards Sergeant.
“Frankly,” adds Anderson, “I'm not concerned about what people in Seattle, Renton or the readers of the Huffington Post think.”
Readers certainly let their feelings be known. Most of the comments were snarky.
“Nine months to catch these girls doing illegal things? Yeah, I think the cops were enjoying this sting operation a little too much and kept reporting to their boss, We need just a little more time."
“I can't believe they actually spent time and money on this.”
“Wow, are you serious. There must be no real crime in that district. How many times did the officers have to watch the girls expose themselves before they deemed it unlawful? Pathetic.”
Not all comments were negative:
“Leave the officers of Edmonds alone! Honoring illegal activity for your own personal gain and putting law enforcement down is weak!”
“I, for one, am glad they finally shut that place down—hope the one a block from my house is soon to follow. All complaints about free speach aside, the stands attract a very bad element to the neighborhood.”
Anderson said officers did not spend nine months staking out Java Juggs.
“The actual investigation (an officer in plain clothes going to the business for the first time) didn't begin until the middle of April,” he said. “The investigation was conducted by a plainclothes street crimes investigation unit who were working on several matters at the same time. This wasn't their only ongoing investigation or their only priority, but enough complaints came in from the community that it was obvious we had an obligation to investigate.
“Their other duties,” Anderson adds, “combined with the fact that this matter involved three different businesses, several different employees engaging in illegal activity, and required a significant level of evidence to support prosecution, is the reason that this investigation took as long as it did.”