First impressions can be everything. Are you like Steve? Do you show up at that party wearing the latest from Abercrombie? Do you give those subtle-but-obvious head bobs that transcend the ear-splitting decibels of the latest Soulja Boy single? Do you give the latest hand slap – knuckle-to-knuckle into the finger point – to every other guy you pass in the crowd? Lookin’ good.

Or are you Bob? Bob tries so hard. Bob shows up at the party wearing the latest Kmart knock-offs. He gives the not-so-subtle head bobs, which often result in either neck trauma or a knocked over bottle, landing in the lap of whoever he was trying to acknowledge. Bob tries to master the hand slap and knuckle bump, but misses the knuckles and takes out bottle number two.

Both Steve and Bob are good guys. But all it takes is a bad first impression. These impressions are hard to overcome and can sometimes be devastating.

A few nights ago I was at the local casino. After thrilling the other players with my impressive poker abilities – i.e. repeatedly handing out my chips to the other players – I went to get my car from the valet. While standing there, shouting erupted from a nearby pile of four guys. A guy on the bottom was screaming obscenities and trying to bite the guy on top of him. This went on for about five minutes. However, after the “Get off me so I can kick your ass,” he also yelled something about how someone had assaulted his wife – the cause of the altercation.

The sad part: Someone might have actually assaulted his wife. However, the impression he presented was that of an out-of-control drunk guy who tries to bite. Instead of giving security a chance to deal with what happened to his wife, the police had to spend their time dealing with his behavior. And this leads me to…

A while back, I was walking down Del Playa Drive when some random guy came up to me and started a fight. I tried to walk away, but he kept coming at me. A fight started and the cops showed up. Although I didn’t start it, and I tried to walk away, I still was arrested for fighting. Why?

Unfortunately, this happens. Although you may have been totally and completely innocent, the cops don’t know that. When we see two or more people fighting, we need to end it. Sometimes the aggression from the fight continues even after we put handcuffs on the people involved. We’ll try to sort out what happened by talking to people who saw the fight, but most of the time we get the Sgt. Schultz response: “I see nothing! I know nothing!”

We’ll try to sort it out, and if we can find who was the aggressor and who was a victim, we will definitely try to arrest the aggressor! Unfortunately, we can only go on what we have in front of us: the first impression. Both may be charged with fighting in public. It would then be up to you to get the truth out to the court – whether it’s with an attorney, friends who were present at the fight or even a subtle head nod and a wink to the judge. Whatever it takes to let the truth be known.

For the future, the best advice I can give to anyone that finds themselves in this sort of situation is to try to be calm. If you do find yourself in a fight and the cops arrive, stop! Do what they say, and try to answer their questions as calmly and rationally as you can. If we can talk to someone calmly, it will go a long way in determining who may or may not be arrested. Believe it or not, we would rather not arrest someone if we don’t have to.

I encourage everyone to be as safe as possible. If you head out to Isla Vista, keep in mind that the parties are limited and the crowds may be huge. Go with friends, and consider using the free CSO escort service by calling (805) 893-2000.