Things started out pretty simple – an open container citation for a couple of guys venturing a bit too far down the driveway – but as Isla Vista became more intoxicated, things got a little more complicated.
Working to control the many weekends of Isla Vista revelry, Isla Vista Foot Patrol officers like Michael Harris and Zak Ayala, have probably witnessed more intoxicated debauchery than any suburban rebel could possibly indulge in.
When we started out on our walk, I was interested to hear their general philosophies of I.V. “after hours”. Officer Harris explained a prevailing “It’s all about me” attitude in I.V., where those getting arrested fail to see how their actions affect the whole community.
“It’s always, ‘I just have one beer,’ or ‘I’m just trying to piss,’ and independently it seems insignificant. But it’s needed for the greater social order of things. And if it’s your house they’re pissing on -then it suddenly becomes very significant,” he said.
It was around 10:30 p.m. when we first stepped onto DP – a little too early for public intoxication, but prime time for MIP’s – minor in possession – and open container violations. We were about mid-conversation about how drunk people never think you can hear them (to corroborate this theory, that night I heard a few “ACT SOBER, the cops are right there!”) when the officers disappeared and reappeared in front of a guy holding a cup of beer on the sidewalk. He was over 21, but he was on public property, so he was given a citation for an “open container.”
We continued the patrol and heard some comments like “Ooh … he has a gun” and the infamous “Fuck the police,” which, by the way, is not the smartest thing to say if you’re drunk and are trying to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Saying stupid things is not going to get you arrested, but Officer Harris said dialogue could change the nature of an encounter.
Case in point: We went to the 6600 block of Sabado where some guy had been arrested and was being held by a few officers. About 10 of his friends were standing around us, yelling at once about enforcement procedure and the innocence of their friend. At one point, their shackled friend tried to get up and run away from the officers, so he was grabbed and pushed to the ground. This pissed off his friends, and I let them vent to me about how the officers were “losing their temper” and how their friend is the “nicest guy around.” Apparently, this wasn’t enough of a catharsis, so one of them decided to physically step up to Ayala and say things like “Fuck the police” – once again, not a good idea.
When we left the scene, Ayala, who’s obviously grown to have a sense of humor about these comments, said, “Don’t they know we’re not with the police department? How come they never say ‘F- the sheriffs?’ Well, at least he wasn’t talking about my mama.”
As we were circling onto Embarcadero Del Norte, we saw three guys climb up through some bushes into Ansisq’Oyo’ Park. Officer Harris looked at me and said, “What do you think they’re going to go do?” We walked up behind them and heard one of them warn, “There might be cops around.” To which one of his friends responded, “Well, then they can just handcuff my dick.” The officers approached them before they began urinating, so we just talked to them for a while and reminded them there ARE public bathrooms in Ansisq’Oyo’ park and the fine for urinating in public is upward of $600 for a first offense.
A few hundred feet down the road, a girl collapsed and was being helped back up by her friends. We approached the girl and Officer Ayala started asking her some questions. Her voice was airy, like she was about to faint, and her body was wavering while she tried to keep her balance. She was arrested for public intoxication and we took her back to the Foot Patrol office for booking.
The officers did cut some kids a break. On the 6600 block of DP a girl was totally drunk, couldn’t walk straight and was hanging on this guy, who appeared to be sober. The officers stopped and separated the two. They asked them each other’s names and how long they’ve known one another. It was obvious they knew each other and the officers asked the guy to take the girl home, which was only a few houses down. Officer Harris said this procedure makes sure no one, especially females, goes home with someone they don’t know while they are intoxicated.
On occasion people were thankful to the officers. We broke up this “Superhero” party on the 6600 block of DP and the tenant of the house gave us several thanks because he knew the party was getting out of hand.
Around 12:30 a.m. dispatch notified us that there was a report of a “man down” on the 6600 block of DP. We were by the ATM machines on Embarcadero Del Norte when we broke out in a sprint down to DP. We started running and again we heard things like “Run coppers run” and “Catch ’em! Go catch the bad guys.” The sarcastic remarks didn’t seem so funny when all I could think about was this “man down,” which isn’t a joke in I.V. anymore. We got there to find a guy, completely passed out brought onto Sabado so he could be loaded onto an ambulance. There are so many people on DP that it is just too hard to get an ambulance through. The officers who had arrived on the scene before us told me it was most likely a severe case of alcohol poisoning.
At this point in the night, it was well past midnight, which meant any noise or music that could be heard 100 feet away is subject to a citation for a 40-2 violation – if you want to be down with the lingo. We heard music playing from a house on DP, so we went up and found the apartment practically empty with the door wide open. There were a couple of friends hanging around, but nobody that wanted to be responsible for the citation. There was a bong sitting on the coffee table, so the officers gave one of the friends a heavy Mag-Lite flashlight and a trash can–then, he told him to break it. Bongs, pipes, any paraphernalia is contraband so by law it has to be destroyed. Ayala said breaking the bongs is usually quite the heartbreaking experience for the owners.
After some more citations, we headed over to Abrego Road around 3 a.m. where a burglary had taken place. The owner came home a few hours later, intoxicated, while Ayala was fingerprinting the windows.
The resident of the house was little help because of her level of intoxication. The party across the street kept coming over to ask questions, make a lot of snide remarks and were generally just a pain in the ass. They were frustrated that the officers were ignoring them and when I started ignoring them too, they called me a traitor. It was as if I had crossed over to the other side – journalism, the ultimate treason.
We went back to the station and the officers began doing the paperwork for the arrests made that night. After a 10-minute break at the station, we received a call to go pick up a marijuana pipe someone had reported found in Francisco Torres.
On the way back to the station, dispatch informed us there was someone hallucinating in front of Freebirds. The fire department and paramedics were also dispatched -standard procedure – but when we got there, we didn’t see anyone. We walked around the immediate surrounding area. The whole time I was thinking, ‘I’m looking for someone hallucinating … this is weird.’ This young guy approached the ambulance and said he called the police station and he couldn’t breathe. After talking to him for a little while, we found out he wasn’t hallucinating; he was just a paranoid first-time weed smoker. A UCPD officer took the baby stoner home and that’s when I decided to call it a night-or morning, as it was almost 5 a.m.
The officers dropped me off at home, exhausted and a little less naive. They told me the next day that after they dropped me off they were dispatched to FT because some freshman had spray-painted penises and “Fuck FT” all over the walls. Damn, I missed the good stuff.