[Note to Readers: This article is a reprint from Prom Guide Magazine about law enforcement questioning of chauffeurs and prom passengers. LCT contributing editor Jim Luff follows with an article advising operators facing those situations]
Prom night is all about firsts. The first time he sees her special sense of glam, the first time she sees him all ‘tuxed’ up, and ultimately, the first time classmates see chauffeurs open the doors of limousines and usher young adults and their dates out to the prom red carpet.
One group of teens arriving at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, N.Y. last year may have missed out on their white glove chauffeur service. The entrance to their prom was stationed by law enforcement. Here is what you might expect if the entrance to your prom also doubles as a police checkpoint.
When your limo drives down the picturesque, tree-lined driveway of the Crest Hollow Country Club, you will not mistake police presence. Your chauffeur is likely to be stopped by a police officer with Consumer Affairs, now the Nassau County Taxi and Limousine Commission, and directed to a gaggle of officers underneath the portico.
Operators may be on guard for and aware of the dangers and consequences of underage drinking on prom night, but you may not have been warned that your chauffeurs could be questioned by officers. Students also could be subject to questioning in the investigation of the chauffeur.
Who booked the limo? Where did the students get picked up? Where are they going after prom? These are some questions students are likely to be asked. It is puzzling that asking these questions of parents, chauffeurs, and the limo companies would not be simpler and less disruptive than asking the students, the customers.
“Children have to be questioned to find out who booked the ride,” says Commissioner Gregory May of Nassau County Taxi & Limousine Commission. Is that their only motive? “Typically, when dealing with students, an officer is more than anything checking for illegal activity such as drug or alcohol usage,” says Joe Guinn, owner of the Texas-based company, Limo & Bus Compliance.
This type of pre-prom policing can affect the prom. “It comes off as a form of harassment to passengers and drivers,” says Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor and limousine industry consultant who ran the Limousine Scene in Bakersfield, Calif., for 25 years. He reasons promgoers who drive themselves or arrive by other means are not subject to being stopped or their grand entrance being delayed.
Commissioner May says police presence at prom entrances is for the “safety of students to ensure they are being transported in properly licensed vehicles.” While his commission is sensitive to how policing of chauffeurs can disrupt prom arrivals, “they are only at a prom on the request of the venue or the school,” May says.
Calls and emails to the director of sales and banquets at Crest Hollow went unreturned. Other proms we observed at Jericho Terrace, Mineola, N.Y. and North Ritz Club, Syosset, N.Y., did not have police presence. Police questioning as soon as you step out of the limousine in the course of licensing enforcement with chauffeurs may taint prom memories, cause worry about getting home, and distract from the fun of it all, Luff says.
It does not have to be that way. Imagine the officers dressed for the occasion. They could trade in their police blues for an Ike Behar Evening Navy 2-button Notch Tuxedo Slim Fit or a Colors Dress evening gown in the same hue. Perhaps the chauffeur could get out of the limo, open the door, and allow promgoers to get unobstructed pictures in front of the stretch or party bus before officers swoop down.
Then, the chauffeur pulls off to be questioned in another area away from the main entrance. That would preserve the grand entrances. Students would only be questioned if the police could not get information from parents, the chauffeurs, limousine companies, or the signed service contracts.
For the school’s part, they could be supportive by allowing the prom coordinator or other school official to be present during questioning, in the absence of parents, until all classmates have made their first grand entrance to the prom.