I am struggling with a conundrum, an enigma, a poser, a philosophical debate of epic proportions, the like of which has never faced mankind before this moment. The debacle of choosing a path that could have severe emotional and psychological effects not only on my future but of those all around me is a frustrating stab at the overall moral implications of who I am and what I am. Has my whole life or even my very being been pointing me toward this moment and this choice? If I choose wisely, will the path lead toward peacefulness of spirit and a feeling of understanding and appreciation toward what I will become beyond my limited ability to see beyond the here and now? If I choose poorly, will I fall into the trap of mental and physical lethargy that will define my view of the world I live in and my slothful desire toward decadence over the enlightenment of understanding?
Wait, there’s chocolate syrup? No one told me we had chocolate sauce. That changes everything. Hell yeah, I’ll pick a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup over a five-mile run anytime. I don’t have to live in Plato’s Cave for a year to make that choice.
Q: At a recent concert, I saw a kid being arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Are the cops focused on enforcing the “letter of the law” or serving the community?
A: Like everyone, cops have choices. The fact that we have choices is not in question, but rather how we establish the framework around our decisions. Sometimes the choices are easy and take little thought, like the “should I pick the jelly-filled or chocolate doughnut?” dilemma. Other choices are based on how we grew up and the moral and ethical codes we have been taught by our family, society and the limitations of the world around us. (“Should I have two doughnuts, or am I getting too fat?”).
I can’t say for sure what was on the officer’s mind when he made the choice to arrest someone. I can comment on the limitations of the circumstances such as the fact that we don’t physically arrest for just small amounts of marijuana anymore. Unless there is more to it, the most that will happen is the person is given a ticket, and the marijuana is seized. If you saw him getting arrested, there is probably more to the story; maybe he snuck in, or maybe he was escorted out for violating concert rules.
Whatever happened, the officer is given a choice of how to handle the situation. Of course the choice is framed by the rules of the event, the laws of the state and the awareness that his boss might be watching, but it is still his choice to make. Many people think of cops as mindless ticket-writing machines that look to bust anyone for anything at any moment. I admit there are a few of us out there who lean in that direction. We all have our own ethical and moral philosophies, and none of them are exactly the same. Some officers cite everyone for marijuana violations. Some officers seize the marijuana and give the person a warning. Others may find a middle ground of seizing it and reporting it as a violation of campus rules. No one way or answer is correct. We all know the “letter of the law” says marijuana is illegal without a medical card. The “spirit of the law” determines how we choose to apply it. My job as a supervisor is to make sure that the officer uses good judgment based on not only the application of the law as it was written, but also its application in a fair and ethical manner, directed toward the needs of the community in question.
I think most would be surprised to find out that for every person they’ve seen arrested, there are probably a dozen more that were warned or given other options. Sure, there are times we are strict about enforcing the rules or laws, but every time we apply it, we need to think about how we do it or even if we should. Although these decisions are often made in a moment, they’re rarely easy. And we have to be honest that we don’t always make the right one.
Q: What is jaywalking?
A: Simply put, jaywalking is defined in the California Vehicle Code as the crossing of a roadway between two intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or police officers. That means if you are between two intersections that have traffic lights, you can only cross the street at the intersections or marked crossing areas. For example, on El Colegio Road in Isla Vista, there is a traffic light between Los Carneros and Camino del Sur. If you crossed the road anywhere around there besides at the intersection, you are jaywalking. On Del Playa, however, the intersections are controlled by stop signs and not signals. Therefore you can cross anywhere, and it is not a violation of jaywalking.
The time has come again for me to put down my spoon, wipe the chocolate off my face, change my shirt, mop the floor and find the cherry that rolled under the couch. I feel confident that I chose wisely today, and I hope you also will take the opportunity to choose wisely and Question Authority! Have a great week and enjoy the warm California winter days. Me? It’s sunny out, so I think it’s time to go for a short waddle…
Sgt. Signa keeps a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate syrup in his gun holster. Gotta be prepared.
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! Email me anytime at QA@police.ucsb.edu or call UCSB PD at 893-3446.