I have to admit, I’m not much of a Harry Potter fan. Don’t get me wrong. The movies are fine, but I just can’t understand how the plot is any deeper than a NASCAR race. Lots of zipping around in circles, some drama, occasionally something blows up and eventually, after several hours, somebody wins. Woo-hoo.

The other night while patrolling Isla Vista, I made the faux pas of stating my opinion of Harry and his ensemble to someone who apparently is a bit more of a fan than I am. Holy schnikes! It was as if I was wearing an Obama “Hope” T-shirt at a Tea Party. Then came the long dissertation on the implications and representations of “He Who Shall Not Be Named” upon the geo-conservative nature of the current U.S.-Sino relationships. Of course, like every emotional Potter argument, the tirade ended with, “You’re just jealous you don’t have a magic wand!” Au contraire, mon frère. Swish and flick. Swish and flick.

I was stopped for a headlight being broken, and when the cop was talking to me, he put his pen in my face, waved it back and forth and said I had been drinking alcohol. I only had a couple of beers a while ago, so how did he know?

Ah, but for what thou sees as a pen is truly a magic wand. A wand with which we can do amazing and magical things! Okay, you can call horse pucky on that one. It’s not magic, but rather a test called Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, or HGN. What the officer is doing is checking your nervous system for any effects of drugs or alcohol. Since the eyes are the windows to the soul, they are also windows to your central nervous system.

When the officer is moving the pen — or magic wand, if you must — back and forth, he is having you track the pen with your eyes. Even a small amount of alcohol in your system can have an effect on how your eyes track an object. We are looking for a slight jerking of the eyes as they follow the pen. This is one of the first signs that something is affecting your nervous system. The more alcohol in your system, the more pronounced the jerking of the eyes is.

Amazed yet? But wait, there’s more! As an officer becomes more proficient with this test, he can track your eyes from a 45-degree angle in toward your nose and, based on where the jerking stops, estimate the percentage of alcohol in your system. Wizardry, you say? Nay, it’s science!

I’ve always heard that if a cop is undercover, he has to say he’s a cop if asked. Otherwise he will lose the case in court. Is that true?

During my first year at Hogwarts, er… I mean the UCPD, I had the opportunity to work undercover for a couple months. Sadly, this didn’t involve a cool Ferrari or exotic speedboat rides to meet overweight, one-eyed Columbian drug lords on strange and remote exotic islands. My tenure involved a squeaky 10-speed and meeting overweight, one-eyed custodians for a long day scrubbing floors and dumping out buckets of, well, I’m not sure what it was, but let’s just say I wasn’t Johnny Depp, and it sure as hell wasn’t “21 Jump Street.” Basically what I’m saying is that TV and reality are very far apart. Just ask Jon and Kate. Ouch, low blow.

But in all seriousness, no, when making the drug deal, the cops do not have to tell the truth and admit who they are. I don’t think we’d have very many undercover cops left if they did. 

We’ve made it past the halfway point, and it seems like June is just around the corner. Isla Vista has been in full moon fever every weekend. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to numerous students and residents, and although most are having a good time, there are many who are not. Between the alcohol overdoses and assault victims, too many are getting hurt. Watch out for each other, and I hope you all have a fun (but safe) time out there. If you see me cruising around, don’t hesitate to stop me and take the time to Question Authority.

In the meantime, I have some people trying to convince me that Twilight is representative of the Russian-NATO dispute over the Iranian nuclear dilemma. Yikes.

Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the po-po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you, Question Authority! E-mail me anytime at QA@police.ucsb.edu or call UCSB PD at 893-3446.