Isla Vista Beat Reporter
The Isla Vista Tenants Union held a Community Forum on Thursday, April 24, to answer questions from local residents. Participating law enforcement officials included University of California, Santa Barbara Chief of Police Dustin Olson, UCPD Lieutenant Mark Signa, and Acting Chief Deputy Sam Gross of the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office.
Student and non-student attendees alike made inquiries into law enforcement tactics surrounding Deltopia, the Festival Ordinance, and the recent controversy surrounding undercover, plainclothes officers entering IV homes.
The forum, held at the new Associated Students Pardall Building, drew a total of about 30 individuals at its peak. Attendees included the police officials, students, IVTU volunteers, and one small news crew from local outlet KEYT. Before the forum began, Chipotle half-burritos, chips, and sodas were offered as refreshments.
“We thank you for inviting us to your forum this evening,” Chief Deputy Gross said during the panel introductions. “We understand you probably have a lot of interesting questions for us, some of which, because of the investigating constraints, we may not be able to answer for you. Some of which we will answer to the best of our ability.”
Olson, who has been UCSB Chief of Police since 2009, acknowledged the unique partnership held between the branches of local law enforcement—the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, Santa Barbara County Sheriffs, and the UCPD.
Chief Olson also registered pride for his involvement with Isla Vista and the university.
“It’s a real honor to work here, both on the campus and in the community,” he said. “Certainly I’ve made my career, from a law enforcement perspective, in higher education. So I really feel that I have a good handle on the age group and community that we work with each and every day.”
Though some students made specific criticisms about the application of Isla Vista and UCSB police policy, the overarching majority expressed confusion over the intent of law enforcement initiatives.
“The students of Isla Vista, the residents of Isla Vista, can have a good time,” Chief Deputy Gross said. “Act their age, but act appropriately. And that’s the balance we try to land there, but it’s a very difficult balance.”
The very first student comment addressed what has become a local controversy—undercover officers entering residences and issuing tickets for underage drinkers.
Lieutenant Signa reinforced that since the parties were of free access to the public, “these events are actually considered consensual entry.” He noted as well that residents with open parties “have the same exact responsibility as an actual bar or bartender. You have to follow the same laws in regards to providing alcohol to minors.”
Chief Deputy Gross also denied that the undercover operation had any connection to the civil unrest at Deltopia.
“Its one more tool in the tool kit,” he said. “It’s not new to what’s happening in Isla Vista. It hasn’t been done on a regular basis, its been done on a sporadic basis.”
Other community inquiries included requests for clarification regarding the Festival Ordinance, review status of the Del Playa camera footage, the perceived vagueness of enforceable laws and expanding breadth of police enforcement, and the possibility of an interdisciplinary, collaborative culture change.
The officers acknowledged that the footage from the various Del Playa cameras are still being reviewed, noting that the labor-intensive process requires viewing each of the five-to-six cameras on each individual stand.
“The campus did put up surveillance cameras and feels that that’s going to help in the prosecution of these types of crimes,” Olson said. “And hopefully send the message that this isn’t the place to come here out of town and particularly prey on young people, or local residents.”
Another student aired a specific grievance, having been issued a $400 dollar ticket for a violation of the Music Ordinance at 12:03 a.m. “What does that protect and serve?” he asked.
By the conclusion of the evening, each of the officers had given recommendations on how to better protect and safely rehabilitate the community.
“One thing I try to stress with people to realize is that law enforcement is not the answer to the problems in Isla Vista,” said Lieutenant Signa. “It’s merely part of the solution, and part of leading us to that solution, and it has to be a part of the community coming together.”