The External Vice President for Local Affairs held a Halloween town hall meeting on Oct. 17 with community safety leaders to answer questions and share opinions on public safety in Isla Vista.
The meeting featured seven panelists, including Alex Yao, the Chief of Police at the UC Santa Barbara University of California Police Department (UCPD), Lieutenant Garrett TeSlaa of Isla Vista Foot Patrol (IVFP), Professor Geoffrey Raymond, the Co-Chair of the Police Advisory Board, Isla Vista Community Services District Board President Marcos Aguilar, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead and Colby Carrell, a senior deputy at the Sheriff’s Office and community resource deputy of the IVFP.
Fourth-year psychological and brain sciences major and External Vice President for Local Affairs Osaze Osayande said the purpose of the town hall was to “focus on restorative justice and community-oriented safety” and to raise student concerns to local law enforcement representatives.
The first topic of discussion was about how community leaders make an effort to address the issues that are unique to the community. TeSlaa said IVFP’s restorative justice program aids in educating people about safety issues prevalent within I.V. as a way to resolve conflicts without harm.
“They learn about issues specific to Isla Vista. Why we have open container laws, why we have noise curfews … we talk about cliff and bluff safety, rooftop safety and most recently we’ve added an education component of the dangers of fentanyl,” TeSlaa said.
Another topic brought up was over-policing in I.V. A question submitted to the panel called out the punitive nature of law enforcement and suggested that alternative enforcement strategies be implemented. Chief Yao responded, saying that UCPD only conducts penal enforcement as a last resort.
“Over the last two years during the Halloween weekend we’ve only issued a total of two citations from UCPD. Both those citations went to people not affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara,” Yao said. “I think that we’re very effective in addressing people’s behavior without actually taking enforcement actions.”
When faced with concerns about over-policing this upcoming Halloween weekend, TeSlaa said the festival ordinance forbids loud music past 6 p.m. This means police will employ a similar approach to Halloween weekend as any other weekend.
“It will look like any Friday night or Saturday night in terms of what our staffing will be. We will be partnered with UCPD in their assistance to make sure that we have enough people for calls to service,” TeSlaa said. “The key to keeping it that way is keeping Halloween local, keeping it friendly, keeping it something that follows the laws, and we discourage it from becoming a big event again.”
The panelists also addressed a question about how accountability within the police department is handled. Raymond said the Police Accountability Board is a safe space for individuals to raise concerns about the police and file formal complaints.
“Police Accountability Board gives a venue for all community members but especially students to share their experiences and views on policing,” Raymond said. “If people make a complaint about the UCPD, the complaint goes into investigation then comes to us, and we have a committee that views the report and responds to the chief.”
One question submitted asked for disclosure on the ways in which the police are being defunded, to which the panelists said funds are being reallocated to programs centered around mental health training, community resource deputies and student safety partners in order to build a more holistic approach towards community protection.
Armistead said fund reallocation rather than fund removal is the best way to promote public safety.
“I think that my understanding of the term defunding is … using funding that would have just been more officers and creating other programs and assessing the needs of the community as opposed to police officers,” Armistead said.
A version of this article appeared on p.1 of the Oct. 19, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.