Ahhh, spring in Isla Vista! There is nothing like cruising down Del Playa Drive and enjoying the cool breeze under the warm sun as I listen to the waves crashing upon the cliffs. The distant seal barks mix with the seagull caws as they blend seamlessly with the faint sounds of Jimi Hendrix playing down the block. The blooming jasmine plants compete with the hickory barbecue smell drifting into my car as I pass by a group of students also enjoying the day. A friendly wave is returned with several waves of their own. Most of them with all five fingers.

It’s times like these I can easily forget that I am working and not on a pleasure cruise. As I pass by the park, I am greeted with the sight of folks playing volleyball, laying out in the sun, tossing a Frisbee and a local park resident waving at me with his pants around his ankles while holding a giant stuffed Tweety Bird in one hand and a bottle of Jack Daniels in the other.

Yup. I guess I am working today after all…

There are some laws that just are not right. If a cop knows a law is wrong, shouldn’t he stand up and not enforce it?

This is one of those morality questions that we get asked, not only by people we talk to, but it is also a question asked on oral boards when we apply to be an officer. There’s no absolute right answer, but there is a broader sense of danger in any answer we give. On one hand, if we say we would not enforce any law we think is wrong or disagree with, we are now enforcing our beliefs upon society. The idea that an armed ‘militia’ now decides what the proper law of the land is negates the power we have given our elected officials to lead us.

On the other hand, if we give the absolute answer that regardless of what we feel, we will strictly enforce the laws, the image of the concentration camp guards comes to mind. Maybe, at the time, the guards at Auschwitz pacified themselves by saying it was not their responsibility and they were only following orders. However, we look back and rightly point out that at some point, when faced with an obvious and horrible wrong, that is no longer a reasonable answer. At some point we need to stand up for what is right.

Fortunately for myself, I have never had to face a decision such as the guards faced. My dilemmas are no more than personal issues with some drug or party laws. In these cases I believe in the power of the people and the courts to make the right decisions, and it’s not my place to make it for them. And I pray it never happens, but if I am faced with a choice to ignore or stand up against an extreme wrong, I can only hope I am smart enough to recognize it, and strong enough to make the right decision.

I am over 21 years old and have a bottle of cooking wine and am going to a friend’s house to make dinner. It is open, so will I get in trouble if I have it in the car with me?

Even though it is just cooking wine, it is still considered an open container of alcohol. If you walk around with an open bottle of it you could be cited for having an open container. When in a car, the law says that any open container of alcohol in your possession is a violation. The key is “in your possession.” As long as you are 21 years old, and it is in the trunk and not accessible to the driver or passenger, you are not in violation of the law.

I got a speeding ticket about a year ago, and went to traffic school. I just got another one. Can I go to traffic school again?

Traffic school is a great tool to keep the speeding ticket off your record and keep your insurance rates down. The rule for going to traffic school in Santa Barbara County is you can go once every 18 months. Also, you cannot be cited for going 26 miles per hour or more over the speed limit. A lot of people ask if they can go if this was their second ticket, but they didn’t go to traffic school last time. The answer is ‘yes.’ The criteria are not based on the number of tickets you got, but when the last time you went to traffic school was.

Another great tip? SLOW DOWN! Considering it’s spring and you’re in California, just think of all the great sights you are missing when you speed around! In fact, it’s time for me to head back out on patrol, and cruise around our fine little community. Until someone calls, I am in no hurry. So don’t hesitate to say “hello” and take a second to question authority or just wave “hi!” All five fingers please.


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 (805) 893-3446.

Sgt. Mark Signa is an officer of the UCSB Police Dept.