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Letters to the Editor >> Opinion
The purpose of the Santa Barbara County Sherriff’s Dept., according to their website, is to “utilize bike patrol and officers from the CHP and UCSB Police to provide safety and enforcement for the community of Isla Vista.” In a small community like ours, where the majority of citizens are college students, are people more afraid of the police officers or of the actual crimes? I am a 138 lb. woman, who had four drinks within an hour span on April 20, 2012, before attending the SBTRKT concert at the Hub. I am 21 years old and didn’t drink for over 2 hours until operating my bike and felt fine to ride my bike, or as the police like to call it, “driving your bike.”
My friend and I are seniors fulfilling our last quarter at UCSB. At approximately 12:30 a.m., we were stopped on our bikes when we were eight houses away from our home on Trigo Road. The cops stopped us for not having bike lights on our bikes and then proceeded to ask us about our night. However, he eventually asked us if we had anything to drink. Shortly after taking the breathalyzer test five times, my BAC ranged from a .13 to a .14. Then I was handcuffed. The officers looked through our wallets and demanded the passwords to our phones. Subsequently, my friend scored a .156, and we were both in handcuffs on our way to the Santa Barbara County Jail.
This is where my perception of the police force took a turn for the worse. My arresting officer, Officer Clocherty, was driving, and I was stationed in the passenger seat, and my friend was in the back seat with Clocherty’s partner. On the way to the jail, Officer Clocherty was tailgating going 90 miles an hour, rolling stop signs and talking to me about how he was a state champion wrestler in 1996. Not only did we get lost on the way to the jail, Officer Clocherty had to call his boss to see if he could legally take us to jail and had no idea whether a BUI was an infraction or a misdemeanor. When I told the officer he was breaking laws, he replied, “I have my lights on.”
My jail experience left me craving to reform the system that seems to only perpetuate crime, the very thing the police are meant to stop. I have never experienced such a loss of rights, a loss of freedom and a feeling that I was not in control of my own self.
When I was being processed, Officers Clocherty and Alexander Fuller were exchanging jokes about an inmate I could see through a window. He was standing on a bench in his cell. Officer Fuller yelled, “Jump! Do it! Kill yourself!” and they both erupted into laughter.
Once in the cell, I met Akemi Neufeldt, a student at SBCC who was arrested that night for a DUI. Although arrested for a DUI, Neufeldt was not driving the car. Neufeldt’s boyfriend was driving her car when he attempted to drift and he hit a parked car. Neufeldt and her boyfriend got out of the totaled car and waited until the cops came 30 minutes later. In that waiting period, Neufeldt took her keys and got her car insurance out of her dashboard. The cops came and arrested Neufeldt because she had the keys in her hand at their time of arrival and claimed her boyfriend, even though he stated he had been driving, was lying and covering for his girlfriend. They had reached their conclusions and took Neufeldt to jail, and her boyfriend went home free.
The people with the power to take away our rights completely lacked compassion altogether. The jail guards were overly flirtatious and malicious, while the women jail guards were stereotypically on a power trip. Not every worker in the jail fits these descriptions; there were two people in particular, namely Officer Magri and another woman, that were exceptions to the rule. These are the people that should be celebrated. In the face of what seems like the Stanford prison experiment, these two people I will take note of as the people that retained compassion despite the norm.
After 10 and a half hours of being in jail (for some reason we were in longer than the two DUI cases), we were released into another room where we awaited to be given our property. The mistreatment was not over. The woman checking us out, Dominguez, took 30 minutes. She conversed with her coworkers about life, and then got out our cell phones and purses and for some reason she felt the need to put them on the ground and kick them over to us.
I am writing this because I believe people need to know. If the overall police system became entirely corrupt, would we have the means to overcome it? Whether you are being stopped on your bike for not stopping at a stop sign or given a ticket for not having a bike light or any other ridiculously distributed citation, people need to know that it happened. These citations are not given out to “protect safety.” Where are the police when real crimes occur in our neighborhood? Incidences of rape and violence are reported every weekend; burglaries are treated as an afterthought. An armed robbery just occurred last Friday, and the perpetrator is still out on the loose. The desire for a powerful position in society has clearly corrupted the minds of these police men and women. People that become police officers because they want the power are not the right people for the job for the very fact that they are power hungry. My sophomore year, I saw an SBCC student, Willy Stober, tazered by a police officer after he asked him not to give him a noise violation. The cop acted in this way because he felt “threatened by Stober’s friends and needed to set an example.” I asked Stober why he didn’t proclaim his innocence in court and he replied, “Who are they going to believe, me or a cop? It’s his word versus mine.” Change is in order and safety needs to be the ultimate priority of police, not exercising their seemingly limitless power on innocent bystanders.
Katy Roberts is a fourth-year global studies major.
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