Lexington Police has had plenty of practice on State Street

 A police officer protects students on State Street after UK’s victory against Notre Dame in the Elite 8 on March 28, 2015, in Lexington, Kentucky.  

Rick Childress

After almost a decade of clandestine post-game celebrations on State Street, Lexington police officers say they’ve better learned how to create a safe but fun environment for jubilant and inebriated fans.

Lexington Police Commander Brian Maynard told the Kernel in September that during basketball season, the police and other law enforcement groups around the city plan for the potentially large-scale gathering of crowds in the State and Elizabeth Street areas almost a month in advance.

He also said that the police’s plans can change simply based on who the Wildcats’ tournament opponent is.

“You throw a Duke in a (round of) 64 game and we’re probably going to be ramped up a little bit more in terms of our planning and our strategy,” Maynard said.

He said that during the tournament, metro police try to send about 200 officers out to make sure the environment remains safe and that those who are looking to do something destructive are quickly removed.

“Two hundred officers versus 10,000 people— we’re not going to control that. We’re going to control an area, we’re going to try to take instigators out,” Maynard said. “Most of the time everyone is going to be out there to have a good time.”

The officers, who almost annually have marched down State Street in riot gear, serve as both deterrent and public relations opportunity for the police, Maynard said. Over the years, fans have been observed posing in pictures with armored-up officers.

“That’s an opportunity we want them to share and take those photographs,” Maynard said. “When it comes to time when you’re no longer allowed to take photographs because we have to handle our business then we’ll make that change.”

Maynard said that police typically make that switch when the on-street celebration is starting to die down and most of those looking to just celebrate have left, leaving only those who are “down there to be destructive and cause other issues.”

Those in the crowd that the police determine to be instigators tend to face serious consequences. Along with criminal charges, destructive or disruptive revelers could also face academic punishments from UK if the determined troublemaker is a student, “so it’s kind of a double whammy,” Maynard said.

He also said that in the past, police have looked at video and photo footage of the events, and have successfully identified instigators days after an incident took place.

“We will take our time, and we will look at video, we will look at photos,” Maynard said.

According to Lexington Police spokesperson Brenna Angel, the police are investigating the car-flipping incident that occurred on State Street in early September after UK football defeated Florida for the time in 31 years.

Maynard said that initially the celebration on the street was tame, as officers found a group of about 50 people who were celebrating in the street and causing no problems.

“Another group comes out an hour and a half or two hours later and all that happens,” Maynard said of the group of revelers who flipped a small white car several times.

He said response officers were back on the State Street a few minutes after the car flipping was reported.

“We don’t want people to get in trouble,” Maynard said. “But if you make a dumb decision and you’re going to impact someone else’s quality of life or damage their property then there’s going to be consequences for that.”

The above article originally ran in the Kernel’s Sept. 17, 2018, print edition.

Angel told the Kernel this week that there will be no parking allowed on State Street ahead of the Georgia game to hopefully prevent another car flipping incident.