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Police Chief, Mayor Clash Over Arrests Of Teens

HAZARD, KY -- The early-morning arrest of several intoxicated students at Hazard High School has erupted into a public showdown between the city's mayor and police chief, causing fears among police that pay raises have been canceled, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.

Hazard Mayor Bill Gorman did not agree with the arrests, saying police should have turned the teens over to their parents without charging them, according to statements made during an open city commission meeting.

"I know you are right as far as the law is concerned, but as far as the compassion of this city is concerned, you were wrong," Gorman said to the police chief during the meeting, which three parents attended to complain, reports the Herald Leader.

"I disagree with you, mayor," responded police chief Ronnie Bryant. "I think this city wants us to enforce the law with our juveniles. I want to save their lives. I don't want to go to a funeral or to the hospital next time."

The commission meeting, which was held on May 5, was taped and released to the Herald-Leader by the city.

Tension between the department and the city has been brewing since the students were arrested about 1 a.m. on April 25.

Police and parents say more than a dozen students gathered at the school's football practice field to have a senior-year cookout.

Principal Happy Mobelini, who left the students about midnight, instructed them to lock the school's gate, Mobelini said. As he was leaving, he called city police and asked them to periodically check on the group until he returned, he said.

About thirty minutes later, when police drove to the field, they found half a dozen bottles of hard liquor and several cases of beer. Some of the teens were intoxicated, according to court records, reports the newspaper.

Police arrested 12 students, including five who are 18 years old or older, according to court records. They are: Joshua Combs, 19; James Bart Teague, 18; Eric J. Sims, 18; and Betsy L. Williams, 19, all of Hazard. Alex L. Brashear, 18, of Cornettsville was also arrested.

Seven other juvenile students were also charged and released to their parents. Their names have not been released.

The students were charged with alcohol intoxication and drinking in public, both misdemeanors.

Police are still investigating how the underage students got the alcohol they were drinking at the school, the newspaper reports.

"The kids asked if they could camp out and I said, 'yes,'" said Mobelini, who is also a city commissioner. "They were not drinking when I was up there, and they did not have permission to drink."

However, some parents question how the students could have become intoxicated so quickly and note that the students had locked away everybody's car keys so no one would drive intoxicated, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.

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