Whoever the new county sheriff is, if he keeps all his campaign promises, Isla Vista won’t see much change – at least not for the worse.
All four candidates cited safety as their primary concern for I.V. and said they would like to work towards this goal by soliciting ideas from the public. They all agreed that I.V. is not out of control but maintaining a full staff at the Isla Vista Foot Patrol Station is imperative. And all four men said creating a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the three agencies that work out of the Foot Patrol Station. – the Sheriff’s Dept., the University of California Police Dept. and the California Highway Patrol – in order to establish definitive responsibilities is another move that would ensure the success of the station.
The candidates – Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Butch Arnoldi, former Undersheriff Dave Dorsey, Commander Jim Anderson and Santa Barbara Police Dept. Detective Rodger Aceves – have all worked at some point in Isla Vista. Dorsey and Aceves were both assigned to the station over 20 years ago – Dorsey in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and Aceves for two years in the late 1970s. Anderson was never assigned to the IVFP, but said he has worked as a patrol officer in I.V. on busy weekends. Arnoldi, who was the IVFP lieutenant from 1998-2001, was the station’s longest running lieutenant.
South County Divisions Commander Deborah Linden, who has overseen the Foot Patrol Station for two years, said she does not expect any dramatic changes for the station. But Linden said the sheriff would play an intricate role in planning and executing – with the help of the rest of the department and the community – long-term solutions to problems Isla Vista faces.
“The last two years have been a significant challenge … our primary focus is to keep kids safe out there,” she said. “By and large, the guys [at the IVFP] do a phenomenal job … [But] the sheriff is always involved – the sheriff is the leader of the department. When you’re talking about policy issues, law issues, the Halloween plan, it’s absolutely the sheriff. What the sheriff does is give us our mission … the day-to-day stuff is [IVFP Lt. Russ Birchim] and the folks assigned out there … but whoever the next sheriff is has to be involved.”
The candidates all said increased party ordinances – like mandatory party registration – are not realistic ways to deal with the party culture.
Arnoldi said the majority of voters and officials who have pushed for increased enforcement in I.V. have been those who are not affected by those laws.
“Personally, I am against [mandatory party registration],” Arnoldi said. “Being a big brother and making more ordinances is not going to embrace the community. If we meet with the community and the community as a whole is desirous of implementing more control, that’s what we’ll do; but I don’t think that’s the answer.”
Dorsey said he would like to see more cohesion from all factions of the community – including property managers and the Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District – to make the town safer.
“We need to have more involvement with the Parks and Recreation District, and I think they’re doing a good job with the university. I like the idea of the university having extended jurisdiction … I think the school is being more proactive, which sends a message,” he said. “There seems to be numerous factions [in I.V.], but none coming together to solve problems out there. I know they’re working on the lighting … but we need to get property owners and managers to help – it’s not just a county concern.”
Anderson also said enforcement in I.V. should reflect community needs and desires.
“I think as far as the five year [Halloween] plan and trying to bring the behavior under control … as long as the people control their behavior, that kind of plan doesn’t have to be reinstated,” he said. “I don’t want to be reactionary. I think I’d rather be proactive, and if we could get the cooperation to help us in our mission in protecting and serving everybody’s rights, personally I would much rather have that situation than having to have a heavy-handed law enforcement.”
Aceves suggested the creation of a community advisory board, which would identify problems and work closely with the sheriff to come up with realistic solutions.
“The way things are now, there’s an information triangle and the sheriff is giving the information to the public – we gotta inverse that triangle. It’s gotta be community based … The only way to respect diversity is to get everyone involved in the equation and let everyone decide how to do it,” he said. Creating an MOU
The unique setup of the IVFP – with partnerships between the UCPD, the Sheriff’s Dept. and the CHP – is also a major area of concern for the candidates. While Linden said the station is running smoothly without an established MOU, Arnoldi, Aceves, Anderson and Dorsey all agreed that outlining everyone’s expectations and responsibilities on paper could only help the IVFP.
“I think that’s a good idea,” Anderson said. “Operations always run more smoothly when the lines of responsibility are defined and agreed to. I think it’s a matter of bringing everybody to the table, opening the lines of communication and listening to what their expectations are as well as what our expectations are … and finding common ground on where everybody can agree.”
Arnoldi said maintaining full staff levels at the Foot Patrol Station -a policy he said has been neglected since he left the station almost two years ago – is a major issue that could be addressed through the creation of a MOU.
“I think [Sheriff Thomas] has done an adequate job … but you should always strive for improvement,” he said. “It was only due to my persistence that we got the operation up to a full staff. Now, out there again, every department is carrying vacancies. We need a full staff to keep the community safe and keep the officers serving the community safe.”
Aceves also stressed the importance of maintaining a full staff.
“[The lack of an MOU at the IVFP] comes from a lack leadership from the point of Sheriff Thomas,” he said. “The ultimate responsibility for IVFP lies with the sheriff. The sheriff is the chief law enforcer in the county and the responsibility for I.V. needs to coordinate through that leadership … the UCPD, the CHP, the IVRPD – everyone else needs to be under the umbrella of the Sheriff’s Dept.”
Ultimately, the four candidates agreed on the importance of communication as a means to change I.V.
“Let’s basically look at the three real black eyes of I.V.,” Arnoldi said. “The burning of the bank, the Halloween celebrations that got outta hand and the Attias thing. Those are three isolated incidents in 32 years and that’s all people think about. When the community gets together and does stuff – like the Dia de los Muertos festival – where is the media for those events? … [We can change the perception of I.V.] by opening the lines of communication, by working together, and showing the rest of the community that there are a bunch of damn good men and women out there who are the future of America.”