I had a little bit of a wake-up call this weekend. I had the opportunity to take my son to a private car museum and see an amazing collection of vintage cars, signs, equipment and even gas pumps. Although I thought it was pretty amazing, once my son found out there were no rides, he quickly became bored. As I tried to get him excited about some of the memories I had as a kid, I began pointing out some old Mobil Gas signs with the flying horse, vintage collector cups we got at gas stations for filling up and even Green Stamps. After I pointed out the S&H Green Stamp sign, my son turned to me and sweetly asked, “Seriously, dad. How old are you?”

After a few minutes, I woke up and dusted myself off from the knock-out blow my son had hit me with. Being the thoughtful and loving father, I suppressed the thought of a 12-year exile to his room and said, “Old enough, son.” Of course, as soon as I said that, I remembered my father saying the same thing. Crap, now I’m as old as my dad.

The truth is that I am getting older. When I first started being a cop in Isla Vista, I was 21 years old. I was the same age as the students around me. Now, I’m, well, let’s just say a bit older. I’ve let go of the idea that I can bond with the students at their level. And no, I don’t mean like a level beneath me, just a different level. Music I used to talk to students about is now based on the “classic” stations. Drake? Cee Lo Green? When asked, I couldn’t tell you if it was a singer or a Jell-O flavor anymore. I need to be honest about that. Trying to be the “hip” older guy, all shizzle in my nizzle? Nope. Doesn’t work. I’ll be content to be that older cop that can share some wisdom and experiences. So just hand me my walker and let’s answer some questions …

How much over the speed limit can someone go before they will get pulled over and written a speeding ticket?

I hear people all of the time give their ideas of the perfect speed to go on the freeway and not get pulled over. Nine miles over the limit and CHP will getcha, or always follow the faster red car or sacrifice a chicken prior to entering any freeway. I’ve heard just about all of them. Generally, we are looking for the faster cars, but sometimes we may see you. I’ve pulled over a car from the middle of a pack, all who were going 75 mph on the freeway. Sometimes it’s random, sometimes it’s specifically going after a car that was changing lanes to get around someone. The point is that it may not always be the fastest car, and the fact you were going nine miles per hour over the limit and not 10 doesn’t really matter. Anything over 65 on a freeway can get a ticket. I hate to sound like my dad again, but just because everyone else is going faster doesn’t make it okay for you. You never know, you may just get that one officer who hates green cars. Not that we profile green cars …

Do cops profile people? And isn’t that illegal?

Yes, we do profile people and no, it’s not illegal. Where the confusion comes in is that as soon as you say profile, people think “racial profiling” and that does not bring up happy thoughts. The difference is that everyone profiles just about anything. Should I choose Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3? You list the pros and cons of each and make a selection — same thing we do on patrol. I see a student-aged person walking down Del Playa on Wednesday afternoon in shorts and flip-flops, and I profile them and likely think nothing is amiss. Now it’s 3 a.m. Saturday morning and I see a young man wearing dark clothes carrying a backpack through the back parking lot. Technically there’s nothing illegal there, but I am profiling him based on dark clothes, backpack, dark area and a high crime area and time. I would likely stop and chat with him. Luckily, it just turned out to be a late night laptop repair delivery guy picking up someone’s laptop.

Where people get legitimately upset is when racial profiling is used as a primary reason to contact people. If an officer sees a young black male walking down the street and feels “he just doesn’t belong there,” that’s racial profiling and wrong. Using the race of a person to make assumptions about who they are and what they are doing is stereotyping and racist. That is actually against the law per California Penal Code 13519.4(e).

I can tell by the clock that it’s time to bring this episode of Question Authority to a close. After a little Metamucil, I’m just a cozy Snuggie blanket from falling asleep to my favorite episode of “Murder She Wrote.” But I’m not getting old …

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

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.

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