The Light and Dark Sides of Santa Barbara’s Police Forces
Personal Stories — Many Positive, Others Painful — of Everyday Interactions with Our Officers of the Law
By Tyler Hayden | Published July 23, 2020
Last month, soon after the death of George Floyd reignited demonstrations and debate over American police systems, the Independent asked its readers to share stories of their experiences with Santa Barbara law enforcement — the good, the bad, and everything in between. We put the call out on social media, through our newsletter, and over the airwaves of Radio Bronco, the region’s largest Spanish-language radio station, and we received hundreds of responses in return. These are 40 of them.
This collection of stories is not meant to be a celebration, nor a denunciation, of our police forces. It is not a scientific study. Instead, it is a comprehensively anecdotal assessment of how citizens view and interact with Santa Barbara’s finest. Many recall times when men and women in uniform made them feel safe. Others remember instances of harassment and abuse.
Among the expressions of both appreciation and misgiving is the general recognition that the majority of police — whether they be city officers, county deputies, or state troopers — are well-intentioned people doing an exceptionally difficult job. But they also give rise to important questions about how the very structures of our law enforcement bodies may be flawed, and how they might be improved.
The Independent is only featuring responses from readers willing to put their names on the line in the interest of truth and candor. We granted anonymity to the very few who requested it, and only in cases when concerns over personal safety or pending litigation existed.
This is one element of an ongoing inquiry by the paper into the patterns and practices of Santa Barbara law enforcement, including reviews of use-of-force incidents where a person was seriously injured or killed. See those articles at independent.com/policefiles.
We thank the readers who offered their stories to us. To contribute your own, or to provide a tip, email us at email@example.com.
When East Beach Grill was still open, I witnessed a man in uniform come over to talk to a homeless man near the parking lot. I was curious as to how it would go, so I slowed down a bit. The conversation I witnessed was one of compassion and care. He asked how the man was and if he needed assistance. I was so grateful to know we had this type of dialogue with the homeless from our officers — speaking on the same level, not talking down or berating or being intolerant. Thank you.
When I was a waiter at Denny’s, I was forced to call the police on a homeless individual who ordered breakfast but lit a cigarette inside the store and refused to put it out. The police showed up and escorted him out. I followed to give a statement, only to see the officer punch the handcuffed man in the face after calling him by name and telling him that he “needs to go back to Isla Vista, stay out of this part of town.”
Monie de Wit
Some years ago, I did the Tecate/Ensenada 75-mile bike ride. I left at the crack of dawn and was super tired on my way home. Just as I was getting to Santa Barbara, I started to fall asleep behind the wheel and hit the speed things between lanes. An officer noticed and pulled me over. I had my bike in the back and explained my day. Instead of writing me a ticket, he said he would follow me home the last five miles, which he did. I will be forever grateful and don’t overextend myself like that anymore. I never got his name, but I wish I had and told his supervisor. That is protecting and serving.
I was out with several friends on Solstice night and dancing at a nightclub, then called Coonies, now called Eos. One of our friends was acting a little belligerent, so we helped him out the door to find a cab.
We were approached by two cops, a male and female. The male cop said that we needed to get our friend home (he was clearly incapacitated), and he offered his assistance by flagging down a cab with his flashlight, for which we were grateful.
His female partner glared at our friend, who was muttering nonsense to himself, and demanded he “shut up or we’re going to take you to the drunk tank!” She then proceeded to violently grab our friend by the throat. My other friend and I pleaded with her to relax and that we would take him home.
She withdrew her hand from our friend’s neck, but he kept muttering, so she once more grabbed him by the neck and shouted at him to “shut up!” He pushed her arm away, which apparently justified her pulling out her Taser and shooting him with it.
We then watched as the two officers tried to put my friend in handcuffs, who at this point was resisting. Backup was called, and four or five bike cops came racing down the street. What proceeded was a painful demonstration of police brutality, as seven-plus police liberally smashed, kicked, punched, choked, and hit their way to “compliance.” A crowd of people gathered and started screaming at the cops to stop.
I filed a complaint with the SBPD, but when I read the police report, I found much of it to be completely inaccurate. It was then that I realized that the police will never hold themselves accountable.
I know of several good men and women at SBPD, and I don’t think that all law enforcement is corrupt, but I do believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I am law-abiding therefore do not have a problem with police. I once dialed 9-1-1 by mistake. I quickly hung up when they answered. Not thinking a thing about it, I went about my business. Several minutes later, I glanced outside, and there was a police officer. He was sent to my house to make sure I was safe. He did not take my quick apology, and instead looked around inside to make sure I was safe. I thought that was nice.
I have been stuck in a rather prolonged version of a dark night of the soul. A well-meaning friend was worried when I recently didn’t go to work, and my phone number appeared to be disconnected. (I had changed my number.) Since she lives out of town, she called the police and asked them to do a “wellness check” on me.…
When I first heard knocking, I figured it was someone selling something, and then I ignored the doorbell like any self-respecting introvert. Next thing I knew, someone was pounding hard on the door, and saying in a loud voice, “Mary, are you in there? It’s the police!”
I was mortified to find three officers on my porch and wondered if … my neighbors were thinking I had set up a meth lab.… And I felt especially terrible because those three officers needed to be out fighting crime and not checking on my sorry old ass.
After I convinced them I was mostly really okay and just needed a priest, Viktor Frankl, and warm chocolate chip cookies, they left, leaving me the number of the local suicide hotline. They were unbelievably kind, gentle, shiny and armed like nobody’s business.
An hour later there was knocking again. This time, it was just the female officer, and she held a bag of chocolate chip cookies. She said she thought they might help.
I nearly flooded her right off the porch with my dopey tears. This is an officer who had told me earlier that she was newly off maternity leave and had a 2-month-old and a 5-year-old at home. But she took the time to get me cookies.
I used to own a music shop that was on the corner directly across the street from the Santa Barbara police station. A very scary looking man about 30 years old walked in one day and wandered around for a while. After my customer left, I was alone in the shop with him and felt unsafe. He had a barbed wire tattoo around his neck and was dressed in combat fatigues. He ended up exposing himself to me, and I ordered him out of the store.
I walked across the street to the police station to report a crime. The woman at the counter informed me there was nobody available to take my complaint. She said somebody would contact me, but nobody did. A few days later, half a block away, I came across five or six uniformed officers harassing a young Latino boy who was sitting on the curb with his hands behind his back. I asked the officers what his crime was, and they said, “We think he belongs to a gang.” I hit the roof and told them it was no wonder the public was resisting a new police station if this was the way they spent their working hours, ignoring valid crimes and harassing young people who look like they might belong to a gang!
So, not big-city brutality, just another case of harassment and the police spending a lot of taxpayers’ money to ignore their sworn duty to protect and serve the public.
When my son was dealing with some intense behavioral issues, I had to call the Santa Barbara County Sheriff one night. They showed up and provided support that was above and beyond what I could imagine. Yes, we are white, so I am aware there is privilege in our experience.
For the past 50 years, our family has owned and operated the four McDonalds in Santa Barbara and two in Goleta. We have employed over 20,000 people and fed over 10,000,000 happy customers. The Santa Barbara Police force has been an amazing asset and service to the well-being of our business, guests, and employees.
Over five decades, they have responded with incredible care, speed, and compassion. We have experienced gangs, suicide, homelessness, burglary, and even a murder at our downtown restaurant, and in every case, we knew with absolute certainty that we could depend on your fabulous police team. Thank you!
I’m well aware of all the discussion around police in the U.S.A. and grateful that productive change is underway, but from my vantage point, our SBPD have been heroic and a godsend.
A few years ago, I was riding my bike home from the Santa Barbara Athletic Club, and it was starting to get dark. The front light on my bike had just broken, so I was using the flashlight on my phone. A cop pulled me over and told me I needed to walk my bike because I didn’t have a working front light. I explained that it had literally just died and I felt unsafe walking alone by myself in the dark. He told me he didn’t care and that I couldn’t get back on my bike. He drove off and I started to walk my bike but was getting catcalls from some people (I was a young female in gym clothes) so I decided it was safer if I got back on my bike.
The officer was waiting around the corner for me and pulled me over again and this time threatened me with arrest. At this point I was crying because I didn’t feel safe, and I asked if he could just take me home. Then my phone died, and he said I was on my own or maybe I could call my “little boyfriend” to pick me up. Through tears I asked if he could just make sure I got home safely. He said he couldn’t do that but if he found me riding my bike again, he would put me in jail. I had to walk home eight blocks in the dark without a phone. I felt very unsafe and wish the police would have at least made sure I got home okay rather than just threatening me with arrest.
I haven’t personally been witness to a police officer either going above and beyond or engaging in an activity that they should not have been. But my experiences and interactions with Santa Barbara police officers and those that work administratively at the police department have always been positive and helpful. They have been courteous and timely with help and assistance whenever I have needed it (and I have had need over the with burglaries and break-ins to my business).
I have lived in, owned property, and recreated in Santa Barbara County since 1975. I’ve experienced nothing but professionalism and courtesy from a Sheriff’s Department that is notoriously stretched thin on officers and resources. These officers serve a large and diverse community. I have nothing but respect for the men and women of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. Thank you for keeping the community safe!
I’ve been tailed by the police on the Mesa, even though I’m a local and have lived on the Mesa for 23 years, but I happen to be Mexican. They don’t think a Mexican really fits in that area, I guess. They’ve asked me: “What are you doing here?” “Are you high, sir?” “Do you live in this area?” I always respond respectfully because of my fear of being shot for being brown. I’ve seen them stop and mess with locals who happen to be Mexican as well. Never have I ever seen a white person stopped for walking down the street.
As a forensic psychologist, I have had very good experiences with law enforcement officers in Santa Barbara County. As executive director of CALM for 18 years, I worked closely with officers to investigate cases of child abuse and domestic violence. The officers were dedicated to keeping the community safe and helping children and families get the social services they needed.
Although retired now, I still have some contact with officers who continue to work to keep our community safe. As with all professions, including psychology and law enforcement, there are very good members as well as problems and areas that need improvement. I trust our community can work together to make improvements in the local police force.
When my daughter was 9, she was selling lemonade with a friend. Two officers pulled over and bought some. They also left $20 for the charity they were supporting. The girls still remember the officers. Thank you.
Our adult son has Asperger’s syndrome, and we have had interactions with the police. In two situations it was obvious that the officers had been trained to deal with mental issues. The officers were compassionate and knew how to de-escalate a difficult situation.
I was driving up the coast one afternoon last winter, on my way home after a day of teaching a guest seminar to middle school students, and I decided to pull over by the Naples property to make a phone call and take a pee.
I’m standing there by my car door listening to NPR, minding and doing my own business, and the hairs kind of went up on the back of my neck. I turned around quickly, and lo and behold, about 20 yards behind my car is a Highway Patrol vehicle, and an officer approaching me on foot. “Move away from the car, sir!” she said.
I turned away from her, zipped up, and slowly moved backward away from my car.
“What are you doing, sir?”
“Ummm, listening to NPR, making a phone call, and taking a pee.”
“I have you on video cam, sir. It’s against the law to expose yourself on public property.”
I paused. “Oh, I didn’t know this was public prop…”
“Yes, it is, sir. This is a state highway. I could cite you for exposing yourself on public property, and you would have to register as a sex offender. I need to see your license and vehicle registration, sir.”
I gave them to her. She scanned them over at her vehicle, keeping an eye on me. When she was finished, she walked back to me, handed me the documents, and said, “Sir, it’s against the law to relieve yourself on state property. It’s the same as exposing yourself. You can stop at El Capitan State Park, Refugio State Park, Gaviota State Park, or the Gaviota Rest Stop.”
“Okay,” I replied. I didn’t belabor the point that one has to pay to get into the state parks, and Gaviota Rest Stop is more often closed than open.
“You can leave now, sir.”
I was seething inside. Such a belligerent ‘I have the power to ruin your life’ attitude. As I drove off, a thought arrived: Maybe the officer had a tough day, maybe she had been dealing with other people at this same location recently. Another thought came to mind: Register as a sex offender? I am a retired teacher with 45+ years of experience working with children in our community and overseas. And a third thought now comes to mind: I am a gray-haired, 69-year-old white guy. What if I had been somebody else? A person of color? An undocumented non-white guy? What might have happened then?
I have no doubt that the officer has helped out many motorists along the Gaviota section of Hwy. 101, and that she’s hopefully given out many citations to dangerous drivers, of which there is no shortage. And she’s had to deal with accidents, injuries, and death. But that doesn’t excuse an attitude of power and fear. Law enforcement can do better. Enforcement of law doesn’t mean the inculcation of fear.
I have honestly never had any problems with our SBPD officers. Most are very polite and friendly and helpful. We have had a few incidences on our property that required a call. I give them all As. I’m always trying to offer them coffee but never any takers.
Years ago we hosted a fundraiser for the Women of Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter we were the subject of harassment and intimidation. Someone left a filled condom on our door handle, and someone wrote, “DIE,” on my windshield. It was around the same time and in the same neighborhood where a Muslim taxi driver was shot by his passenger for being a “terrorist.”
The policeman who came to take the reports was very kind and thorough. He collected evidence, though he apologized that matching DNA to the condom was likely a low priority for the department. He carefully went over the scene at the car defacement, took fingerprints, and was generally sympathetic, thoughtful, and thorough.
He called back once to see how we were doing. No one was ever caught, but there were no other incidents.
I’ve had my share of encounters with SBPD due to the fact that I was pretty wild as a teen. I grew up in both Oxnard and Santa Barbara, and I can honestly say that Ventura County officers are far more abusive. However, that’s not the same for the Santa Barbara gang unit.
One particular officer would arrest any teen without probable cause and was known to physically abuse them while they were handcuffed. He arrested me and my cousin for no reason at all, and while we were handcuffed pepper sprayed us both. We did not do anything to warrant that response.
Since most of my friends were undocumented, the gang unit would break into their homes without warrants and harass their family members. My aunt got arrested for simply asking if they had a warrant to search the home. She and her daughter were both tackled to the ground and manhandled and later arrested.
Mary Lou Williams
I am the spouse of one of the city’s “Men in Blue.” I am also a registered nurse and we are parents of four sons who are now adults with families of their own. We are a law enforcement family with a son and two nephews who are also in law enforcement.
My spouse retired as a sergeant after 31 years of dedicated service. I know that he was an excellent representative of his department, and he cared for his community. He served the youth as a scoutmaster, church teaching assistant, and Youth Football League coach, and he mentored those who wanted to pursue the law enforcement profession. He also served as a hostage negotiator.
Santa Barbara has always had the reputation of having one of the best law enforcement departments. It is unfortunate that many of these officers and ancillary personnel cannot afford to live in the community which they serve. Many have to get up at four in the morning to drive in to work. They also drive home in the late hours. That leaves little time for family, which is so important.
I am proud of the men and women who serve our community, who are dedicated, caring and devoted to their profession. I pray for their safety, as our family has had some close calls, and, unfortunately we have lost several very loved friends who served in blue.
I attended a Black Lives Matter protest in early June and encountered a line of police officers protecting their headquarters. They were dressed in full riot gear, armed with tear gas launchers and firearms, yet only three or so of them were wearing face coverings. I expressed my disapproval for neglecting a safety regulation during a pandemic. I also noted that bringing riot gear to a peaceful protest is exactly what incites riots. Not a single officer acknowledged me or even looked in my direction. I explained that I am a first-year law student and an active member of the Santa Barbara community. Eventually I walked away, asking them to consider what it means to be a police officer in America.
About a week later, I was taking a walk in my neighborhood when I stopped to watch two officers frisking an older brown man, going through his bag of cans and emptying his pockets. This man did not speak English and looked absolutely terrified. One officer asked if I needed something or if I was just watching, to which I responded, “I’m just making sure he’s safe.” Two more officers arrived, and they held the man for 30 more minutes before letting him go. The last officer to leave rolled down his window and said to me, “Congrats on law school.” He obviously recognized me from the protest.
That turned my blood cold. I told him that if one really cares about the law, they choose to study it before they try to arbitrarily enforce it…. Our conversation escalated before he finally decided to leave, but not without saying, “You know what? Don’t go to law school.” He doesn’t want people like me out there to hold him accountable, and that is disgusting. I unfortunately didn’t get his badge number, but he is out there. He knows who I am, and I do not feel safe. He is a cop, and I do not feel safe.
My neighbor calls about four times a week and insists SBPD comes by to check on him and his house. His wife passed away about a year ago, and he is not the same mentally because of it. I see about three police cars a week in front of his house to check on him and around his property to make him feel comfortable. The patience and follow-up our police department has is remarkable. I personally would have stopped going after the second visit. They go above and beyond to make people feel safe in our city. Thank you, officers!
On June 22, I witnessed a hit-and-run that damaged a pickup truck in front of Hayward’s Lumber. When I arrived at my office, I called the SBPD to report what had happened. The officer told me that it was a civil matter and hung up.
Granted this was not a major crime, but I was shocked at the indifference with which I was greeted … and dismissed. I’m a lawyer, so I stewed on it for a few seconds, and I called the SBPD again. I gave them my name and said I had just called. It was the same officer. I said, “It was a hit-and-run, so it is not simply a civil matter. I want to report the crime, and I have the license plate number of the truck that drove off.”
The officer told me that I should give the info to the victim. I said I was no longer at the scene, but I would like to give the police my contact info in case they wanted to follow up. The officer said that they had not received a report about the incident yet, so there was no place for her to record my info, and that was the end of the story for SBPD.
I do not think we should eliminate the police, but I would like to have a functional police force to serve and protect … maybe we do need to consider some fundamental changes … or maybe the SBPD needs a better crime reporting database.
While shopping at a local boutique, my debit card was declined. I was mortified and needed to call my bank to transfer more money into my checking account. Unfortunately, I had left my phone in my car which was blocks away. A customer nearby heard my plight and offered to lend me her phone. She had to leave the store, however, so she left her phone with me. She told the clerk that she would come back in an hour or so. I was flabbergasted at the customer’s kindness. After she left, the clerk smiled and asked me if I knew who the kind customer was. I didn’t. She told me it was Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Lunhow.
I’m a native Santa Barbaran born here in 1961. I love my town.
My first experience with the police occurred when I was 11 years old. Some friends and I from the Coronel Apartments below McKinley School were playing on the school grounds with our homemade nunchucks, which our parents knew we had. We admired Bruce Lee so much back then, and we liked to pretend we were in his movies. The other kids were 8, 10, 11, and 12 years old. The two youngest boys were black and the other two were half-Mexican, like me.
As we were playing, a school security guard saw us and called the police. A tall white motorcycle cop (I remember he was wearing those big black boots) came up to us and led us to the office of the school. He said we were going to jail because we had weapons. He was really mean and scary. We made the nunchucks from broom sticks with a chain screwed to the top. We were kids and didn’t know they were considered deadly weapons, only that Bruce was the coolest thing we had ever seen. I pleaded with him to take us to our parents because they knew where we were and what we were doing, but he insisted we go down to the police department.
We were held in a room with a one-way mirror for something so innocent and so stupid. It was just such a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. All the boys were so scared. The youngest boy peed his pants. In hindsight, I think that officer was trying to teach us a lesson, but that lesson turned into anger, frustration, and distrust of police to this day.
I was born and raised in Santa Barbara. I used to play cops and robbers in front of my apartment complex with friends, and I vividly remember a Deputy Sheriff stopping by and playing with us on multiple occasions.
When I returned to Santa Barbara after serving in the military, I observed multiple incidents with police. These were typically in the State Street nightlife scene. I specifically remember one instance when my wife and I observed a man holding an infant, and the man was very drunk. He staggered, leaned on the wall, and struggled with balancing upright. We told a couple of officers standing near a corner. Without hesitation, they searched the area. Later that night, one of the officers found us. He thanked my wife and I and said the man had been placed under arrest.
I continued to hear about negative experiences with the police. But even when I look at my rebellious high school years, I can only think of my own positive police contacts, even if I didn’t like them at the time. When I lost my best friend in Goleta, I was furious that they kept us away from the scene and wouldn’t share information. But when I reflect back, I realize it was to protect his family and friends from an ugly situation and preserve how we remembered him.
The Santa Barbara Police Department and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office are, for the most part, very professional and responsive police forces for this small town. I think about the stabbings involving gang members downtown, and the quick response of the Police Department. I remember hearing the responding sirens to a mass shooter in Isla Vista, where the suspect was stopped by the Sheriff’s Office.
And now, in the last few weeks, all I’ve heard is how terrible, racist, and brutal the police have been in this town. I love my hometown. I love my Santa Barbara. What I don’t understand is the disregard for such outstanding police agencies that truly want to protect and make a difference.
I now live in Sacramento. There have been over 30 gang shootings and over 28 homicides in recent weeks. This is a city that wants to defund the police. Even after gang wars, the people flip off, cuss, and even assault police when they only try to protect them.
I recently visited Santa Barbara, and I can only say I’m proud, happy, and extremely fortunate to have been raised here. Thank you, law enforcement agencies, for keeping Santa Barbara beautiful and safe.
I am a volunteer on Cruise Ship days and greet passengers down at the harbor. There are always two officers “on duty” there. Apparently they rotate this job and they love doing it, maybe because they get to do nothing. They are provided a table with covering but often will remain in their car, heads down on their phones. One day, we saw only one officer. When we asked, “Where’s your buddy?” We were told that, “He forgot his sunglasses” … and he was gone for three hours! No wonder it’s highly desired overtime.
I have had nothing but good encounters from our law enforcement. I noticed that when I moved here four years ago. They are fair, nice, and approachable. With all the homeless and mentally disabled, I feel the SBPD is patient and understanding with them. I’m proud of our department!
Just recently moved here. Why don’t Santa Barbara police cars have turn signals?
Our garage was recently burgled while we were asleep. My husband had left his wallet in his car, and that was one of many items taken, including a bike, radio, alcohol, etc. American Express called and said someone was trying to buy a Playstation with our card.
The police responded within minutes and sent a CSI officer to come and get prints. They arrested the perp by 2 p.m and had a photo of him using our debit card at a local store. This was not his first time out!
The police were courteous, fast, and followed up with calls and emails. We were able to get most of our stolen items back the following day. We are lucky to have men and women who protect and serve.
In Carpinteria, my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and two of his friends were pranking me and my friend by decorating her car with miscellaneous items. We had just toilet-papered their house. Police noticed the boys at the car, pulled over, and called back up. This was directly outside of my house, so my friend and I could watch. The three were searched and had no weapons. No alcohol or drugs were involved either.
They were asked to sit on the curb with hands behind their heads. The police kept their guns drawn on them the whole time. The lead officer was irate and yelling at them. When my friend came outside to tell the officers she did not want to press charges, which he was repeatedly pressuring her to do, he stated that if she was his daughter he would “club the three of them like a bunch of baby seals.” The gun was still drawn on them as he said this. We all walked away just fine, but it dampened my perception of the local police.
I have had nothing but good experience in my dealing with the Santa Barbara Police Department. In the past, I had to report a rash of very disturbing, frightening phone calls to my home. The police were very kind when they responded, and the department made several follow-up calls to inform me of what was happening.
I have a medical responder device that went off twice accidentally. The police quickly responded and again were very kind.
Last year I witnessed a woman stealing packages outside of the doors at my apartment building and reported it to the police. I was able to take a picture of the car with a man driving, waiting for a woman who jumped into the car which sped away. Although the license plate was not very clear in the picture, the responding officer thought that with the equipment the police department has, they might be able to enhance it. He took a very detailed report from me and was very polite.
I was with my friend talking in my car outside of his house. He lives in a nice part of town. We are both black. Someone called the police on us. At first one car showed up, and then eventually there were three or four squad cars lined up behind us. I had recently turned 18, but my friend was still a minor.
A cop came up to my window and told us that we weren’t allowed to be out past curfew, which started in an hour and a half. He questioned if my friend really lived in this nice neighborhood and told us someone called the police on us because we looked suspicious. He then said I was parked too far away from the curb. After harassing us for an hour or more, he and all of the other cops left. This happened less than a year ago, just one of many ridiculous encounters I’ve had with SBPD.
Best police force on earth. Great response times. I just wish they got nearly the same love and support as we give our fire department. Great job guys and gals, considering how much our city council interferes with what you should and should not be policing.
I have so much admiration for the many well-trained, kind policemen with the integrity needed to pass the difficult academy, including the psychological testing, physical testing, and background checks that ensure they enter the field for the right reason of serving and protecting the public.
I have been on a ride-along with a police officer in Santa Barbara, and I think that every person who berates the police should see how they are discriminated against when serving their communities. The cops have things thrown at their vehicles, they get spit on, called to dangerous situations with drunk and unruly addicts, and publicly ridiculed by passersby and the homeless. I would like to see how those that condemn them so much would act under the same circumstances.
There are many, many wonderful women and men who enter the police force, and yes, there are some who abuse its honor and guidelines. But it is about time the good ones be recognized and respected just as the bad ones are televised and fired.
My husband and I were walking home one night around 8:30 p.m. We came across a car parked in a bus stop. The lights were on, but the car was not running and there was a white man passed out behind the wheel. I called the police because when I took a better look, I saw that one of his tires was flat and the front driver’s side was damaged.
When the cops got there, they woke him up, and it was obvious from his speech that he was intoxicated. They kept telling him to sit still, and he kept getting out of his vehicle. It happened at least four times, and each time the officer calmly asked him to sit back down. They performed a field sobriety test, and he did not even get through the first test. They said since his car wasn’t hot, he hadn’t been driving, so they didn’t arrest him and offered to call him a cab. It was calm and nobody raised their voice. It’s how traffic violations should proceed.
On the other hand, my father, who is brown, was arrested for drunk driving while he was sitting in a restaurant. He was wearing cowboy boots, and the police kept calling him “cowboy” in a mocking tone. They said they saw him driving there. My father has an elbow that can’t extend all the way, and the officers kept forcing it past its flexibility every time he complained. He spent the night in jail and was tried for the crime. It cost my parents $10,000 dollars, and in the end my father had to perform a year’s worth of community service.
The Sheriff’s deputies in Isla Vista go above and beyond every day! They have administered Narcan to save lives, talked suicidal kids off balconies, quietly involved parents to get kids drug treatment before arresting them.
Anyone can go on a ride-along with the Sheriff’s deputies in I.V. On one night I witnessed more disrespect and hate toward them than I could imagine. The sad part is they are so used to it and it rolls off them and they continue. Specifically, the community liaison officer was doing an amazing job working with kids and property owners to control the party environment.
I had someone walk into my home at 6:30 am. I called 9-1-1, and the dispatcher stayed on the phone with me until SBPD arrived. Four officers helped the man by peacefully removing him from my home and taking him to Cottage Hospital. He was obviously confused and off his meds.
My mom was driving home from work. She taught night ESL classes, so it was around 9 p.m. She was driving up Haley Street and a police car came behind her with its lights and sirens on. She was shocked because she did not do anything wrong, or at least she felt she did not do anything wrong. She didn’t stop for a few blocks. When she did, the police came to the car window and asked why she didn’t pull over right away. My mom replied that she wanted to drive to a section of the street with overhead lights. She wanted to be visible. My mom is now 84, and every time I drive up Haley, I think of her being scared to stop for the police.
This article was underwritten in part by the Mickey Flacks Journalism Fund for Social Justice, a proud, innovative supporter of local news. To make a contribution go to sbcan.org/journalism_fund.