Dear Isla Vista Foot Patrol,

You know, sometimes we might complain about getting hassled for this or that, but in light of the Great San Luis Obispo Mardi Gras Roundup of 2004, we thought we’d thank you for not shooting at us.

Every year, throngs of drunken party-goers – much like the ones officers pelted with rubber bullets and doused with pepper spray in SLO last weekend – visit Isla Vista on Halloween. And then they also come all the other days of the year, in fewer numbers and without costumes, but with all the drink-until-incarceration fervor that characterizes partying in this community.

Indeed, pulling drunken college students off the street and tucking them in for the night at the Santa Barbara County Jail has become routine for the officers of the IVFP. Perhaps this preparedness is why I.V.’s most recent Halloween, which drew between 40,000 and 50,000 revelers to the streets, resulted in only 98 arrests and nary a rubber bullet fired.

In SLO, however, a comparatively paltry crowd of 5,000 addled police into riot weather: showers of rubber bullets and clouds of pepper gas. Officers then arrested 130 people – three of them UCSB students. Sure, the rowdier SLO party-goers were tossing beer bottles at officers, thus provoking the action that marred Mardi Gras. But tensions between I.V.’s Halloween crowds and the police guarding them didn’t rise to the levels that send glass bottles flying – even with DP being packed curb-to-curb. One could assume that the IVFP’s collective years of experience should be credited for its safer means of keeping the peace.

So for knowing how to keep a potentially bad situation from turning into a nightmare of welts, stinging eyes and multiple arrests, we should be grateful.

Knowing that the legion of police backup imported to SLO from other counties included none of the IVFP’s ranks is good to know, too – at least none of our local boys in blue will be lusting for the sound of rubber bullets striking skin. But we can’t wonder if the experience of the IVFP could have prevented Mardi Gras from degenerating into target practice. Maybe the SLO Police Dept. should take lessons from the IVFP in college-crowd crisis management. Halloween gets crazy, but the IVFP simply seems to have a firm enough grasp on the party scene that violent exchanges between groups of students and groups of police have been prevented.

So once again, from students whose backsides have yet to feel the sting of riot-deterring bullets, we thank the IVFP.

Oh yeah – and thanks also to Cal Poly. It’s always nice for someone else to steal the spotlight as the rowdy, headline-grabbing party school. Now you guys are the crazy ones.