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Whenever I am talking with someone and they ask what I do, I have to pause. Then I point to the uniform, badge and gun, and shrug my shoulders and say, “I’m a roadie for the Wiggles.” Of course, they look confused at this point, so I have to go into an extended dialogue about how the instances of violence among three-year-olds at children’s concerts have skyrocketed recently due to the lack of Nerf gun control laws. Usually by the time I get to the part about how gangs of three-year-olds in purple claiming to be “Barneys” are trying to get Sesame-Street cred by warring with the “Lil’ Ponies,” they start to realize that I’m not being serious. Way to put that master’s degree in dairy herd management (yes, that’s a real master’s degree) to effective use, Einstein.
Eventually, I explain that I am a cop who works in a college town, currently assigned to the Isla Vista Foot Patrol office. As soon as I say “Isla Vista,” I often get that look of pity, as if my job is to wear a Lady Gaga meat dress in the L.A. Zoo’s lions’ den. Although, admittedly, there have been times that it’s felt like that, Isla Vista is not the evil den of iniquity it’s often portrayed as. It has its problems — there’s no getting around that brontosaurus in the living room. But they also tend to forget that there are a lot of really good people out there. Some are even heroes. In fact, just this past weekend, there was a young man who was devastated after seeing a woman assaulted. He came up to me and told me what he saw, and as a result, some seriously bad people went to jail and some really good people got the help they needed. A hero is just an ordinary person in extraordinary situations doing more for others. We sometimes forget that I.V. has a lot of heroes and they don’t always wear uniforms.
If I see a fight or someone being hurt, what’s the quickest way to get help? Can I remain anonymous?
The simple answer is to call 9-1-1. Whether it’s on a cell phone, pay phone (if they still exist), house phone or satellite phone, the number is the same. With cell phones, the GPS (Global Positioning Satellite, or Government Peering over Shoulder) systems can identify where you are calling from and will route the call to the nearest law enforcement agency. Sometimes the system incorrectly identifies you as being in Kentucky watching a derby while sipping bourbon, so try to be ready to give your location just in case.
Can it be anonymous? Mostly. If you tell the 9-1-1 operator that you don’t want to identify yourself, they can’t make you. There’s a chance that they will probably have the number of the phone from which you called, but unless there was a serious reason to re-contact you, that will be the end of it.
I am visiting the U.S. and only have my passport as my form of identification. I can’t risk losing it, so I don’t carry it around with me. An officer told me that if I am stopped for a violation, I could go to jail instead of getting a ticket — is that true, and if it is, how can I avoid it?
Over the last few weekends, I have run into quite a few students who were temporarily in the U.S. for various programs and were walking around DP with open containers of alcohol. Some of these students were simply not familiar with the rules and didn’t realize that they weren’t allowed to walk around with open containers. Others were caught underage with alcohol, due to, again, simply not being familiar with our local laws. Several of these students have not had their identification on them because of this fear of losing their passport. However, the problem is that if I can’t identify you, I can’t issue you a ticket, and that means that I’ll have to take you into custody until you are properly identified. This could easily mean you spending a night in jail. Most people can easily be identified by having us run their names and matching it up with their driver’s license info. A passport is usually a good form of I.D. for us, but if you don’t have it with you, it does you no good, and I have no way to run your name to confirm who you are. I completely understand that the thought of losing your passport is scary, so go ahead and leave it at home. Instead, carry a photocopy of your passport. Technically it’s not a valid I.D., but if it’s readable and doesn’t look like it was put together by Bert and Ernie, we may accept that as a way of identifying you. Bonus points for carrying a credit card with a matching name; negative points for a matching Interpol “Wanted” poster of your face.
My car was towed for 30 days because I had been driving on a suspended license. Is there any way for me to get the car back before the 30 days is up and/or avoid the ginormous tow bill?
As a way of combating unlicensed/suspended-license drivers, California has a law that has the police automatically tow a car for 30 days if someone is caught driving on a suspended or expired license. You are then stuck with the ticket fine and the tow fees for 30 days. That can end up costing you thousands of dollars to get your car back. However, one caveat written into the law is that if you get your license reinstated, you can request that your car be released early. Usually that’s all that it takes! So if there is a way to get your license reinstated, you should be able to get the car back before you owe more than it’s worth … unless it’s a classic ’71 Ford Pinto. In that case, you’re welcome.
Well, it’s already time to go. I can see the tensions are rising among the Barneys and the Lil’ Ponies, so I’d better get back out there. There are reports that they are starting to carry Lincoln Log shivs. Just the other day, I saw a Lil’ Pony beating a Barney with his Speak n’ Say while yelling, “The farmer says, ‘Take this, homie!’” Man, between that and the occasional Big Wheel drive-bys, the streets of I.V. can be scary sometimes.
Sgt. Mark Signa’s “Letter of the Day” is “H” for hero … and also for hoagie … sorry, still thinking about that meat dress.
Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the Po-Po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you … Question Authority! E-mail me anytime at: QA@police.ucsb.edu or call UCSB PD at 893-3446.