In response to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. “fall offensive” crackdown on local alcohol violations, members of Associated Students have begun organizing a “fall defensive.”
The A.S. Student Lobby and members of A.S. Legislative Council distributed 5,000 information packets to Isla Vista residents this weekend in response to student complaints that they have received regarding the Isla Vista Foot Patrol and UC Police Dept. Such complaints include unlawful searches and seizures, sexual harassment and intimidation. The packets, paid for by a $2,100 grant from the I.V. Community Relations Committee, included a formal sheriff’s department complaint form, a list of the most common violations for which people in I.V. are arrested and suggestions on how to communicate with police officers. A clipart picture of an officer swinging a baton adorns the packet’s cover.
A.S. President Cervin Morris said the fall defensive campaign is not an attack on local law enforcement, but rather it focuses on the abuses of a few officers and deputies.
“We’re definitely not saying all police are bad,” Morris said. “Not all students have true accounts; every story has two sides. But if there’s so many people complaining, why haven’t [the police] done anything about it?”
Sgt. Steve Johnson, of the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, said the IVFP forwards all complaints regarding officer conduct to sheriff’s headquarters. He said that complaint forms are available at the foot patrol office on Pardall Road and that he encourages community members to file complaints if they experience problems with law enforcement. If a complaint is verified, an offending officer will either be reprimanded, receive verbal counseling or be terminated based on the severity of the incident, Johnson said.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Public Information Officer Chris Pappas could not be reached for comment Sunday afternoon.
Johnson said he thought the A.S. Student Lobby packet was a good way to educate students about their rights. Although he generally agreed with the packet’s content, Johnson said certain things, such as the information about officers not being able to enter a house for a noise ordinance, had been misrepresented.
“If there’s a noise ordinance and that’s why the law enforcement is there, there’s a violation,” he said. “The law enforcement needs to contact someone regarding that violation. If [the residents] are not going to open the door, law enforcement has the ability to go in and contact the people in the house.”
A.S. Student Lobby chair Lance Tackett said alleged abuses of police power and over-zealous enforcement of alcohol violations have increased in part because of grants issued to the foot patrol by the Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). He said to receive the money, the IVFP had to prove there was a need to control alcohol abuse.
“They need Isla Vista to look worse and worse and worse so they can get this funding,” he said. “It’s kind of sad that the only way they got the funding was they had to up the arrests so that they have a need for [the grant].”
Johnson said the IVFP has stepped up its enforcement of alcohol-related crimes in Isla Vista on the heels of a $50,000 and $100,000 grant from ABC. He said the ABC allocated the money because more serious crimes, such as physical abuse, originate from alcohol consumption.
“If we can get to the problem at its smallest common denominator, that’s the easiest for us to handle,” Johnson said. “If we can eliminate the problem before it grows and gets out of control, that’s the way we’d like to do it … They’re not going to grow into larger problems like fist fights or assault or major incidents where parties get out of control.”
Tackett said the second phase of the fall defensive campaign will require members of Student Lobby to follow law enforcement officials around with a video camera to monitor for abuse. He said this tactic has been used by the UC Berkeley group, Copwatch. Members of Student Lobby and A.S. will also research past complaints regarding foot patrol officer conduct.
Morris said the police are emphasizing alcohol violations too much and are not performing their duties to serve and protect.
“I’ve personally seen police hiding behind bushes … waiting for students,” he said. “Now is that something that they’re supposed to be doing, or are they supposed to be keeping us safe? People feel like they’re targeting them. It’s easy tickets.”