Isla Vista’s relationship with its police force is sometimes an acrimonious one. “Authorities and witnesses agree that the Deltopia 2014 incident started with a momentary protest of police triggered by the violent chase, takedown, and arrest of an unarmed black teenage minor that resulted in the injury of a single police officer,” stated Jay Freeman, a member of the town’s governing body, in an amendment to a resolution being pondered by the Community Services District on June 9. The board was looking to condemn police brutality and declare racism a public health emergency.
The resulting 2014 riot ended Deltopia to the present date. The young man, who was visiting I.V. from Los Angeles, was deemed a juvenile and his records sealed. Isla Vistans continue to have issues with their police department, and Freeman called for Santa Barbara County to reduce the budget of the Sheriff’s Office and instead consider alternate models of public safety with the eventual goal of abolishing the police. His lengthy list of amendments addressed Isla Vista’s history with police brutality and policing in general.
In considering the resolution, Ethan Bertrand, a member of the board and a student at UCSB, spoke of his experiences in I.V.: “In the past two years, I’ve been stopped by police for walking in my neighborhood. It’s disrespectful, it’s uncalled for, and it’s intimidating.” He said, “Many people in Isla Vista have been subject to racist violence, and that’s something that we need to grapple with and acknowledge.”
Bertrand advised changing the resolution to add another “whereas” clause: “If we were to add anything to the resolution that we’re passing tonight, it would be one more ‘whereas,’ where we voice our support for civilian review and oversight for law enforcement services in Isla Vista.”
Board members George Thurlow and Father Jon-Stephen Hedges both abstained from passing Freeman’s amendments, instead proposing to discuss them at length in a future meeting. “I don’t think this is the way we do it, where we just bring some very important, very precedent-setting, very complicated calls for action to a board meeting, and then not have it in front of the board members who are supposed to vote on it, with clearly the threat that if you don’t vote for this, you’re not supporting anti-racism,” said Thurlow.
The resolution passed unanimously with Bertrand’s amendment, and a task force was approved to review Freeman’s amendments. The next board meeting is set to take place on June 23. All meetings are open to the public, and a complete list of board meetings can be found here.