Campus Beat Reporter
The University of California, Santa Barbara Police Department and the County of Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office have released an official Memorandum of Understanding between the two law enforcement bodies, marking a significant step in the ongoing conversation of the handling of sexual assault cases for UCSB students living in Isla Vista.
The boundaries of law enforcement jurisdiction themselves are straightforward: SBSO presides over the two square-mile area of Isla Vista, while UCPD presides on all sides around it, including the main campus to the right of I.V., Storke Campus directly north, and North and West Campus to the left.
Fourth year Ro’shawndra Earvin, who led the twelve-hour sexual assault policy sit-in on the fifth floor of Cheadle Hall in early May, is unfortunately well-acquainted with the jurisdiction map. While occupying Cheadle Hall, Earvin presented administrators with a list of demands that day to address what she felt was a mishandling of her case by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office.
Earvin said, both in the meeting and in written documents in the weeks following, that the SBSO officer handling her case had done so with “unprofessionalism,” profiling the act of having to walk evidence to the IVFP office, an invitation to meet with the officer in his car after midnight to discuss the case, and what she perceived as an overall lack of sensitivity.
Earvin believes these missteps may not have occurred if the jurisdiction boundaries, or at least the communication boundaries between SBSO and UCPD, were altered.
The memorandum does in part provide an answer to one of Earvin’s demands by providing a clear and enumerated list of expectations ranging from jurisdiction to communication between law enforcement bodies and victims by which SBSO and UCPD are expected to abide by.
At a follow-up meeting on Wednesday, May 17, SBSO Undersheriff Bernard Melekian and UCPD Assistant Chief Cathy Farley presented the memorandum. Signed into being in mid-February of this year, the memorandum states its purpose as the promotion of “collaboration between the Parties to enhance the reporting, investigation, and appropriate response to sexual assault and other covered crimes,” as well as a commitment to comply with California Education Code, Clery Act, and Title IX policies. It also outlines proper procedure for handling the direct reporting procedure for sexual assault, how to direct victims to services, and a commitment to provide mandatory sexual assault prevention and training.
When asked to elaborate on training, Melekian said that officers handling assault cases go through an initial 80 hours of dedicated training, with follow-up trainings of four hours every other year.
“It’s one thing to have all this on paper,” said Earvin, who like many students in the room was still unhappy with SBSO’s response, “but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to have officers actually follow through with it and treat us with the respect that we, as human beings, deserve.”
Melekian apologized to Earvin, saying that he “felt badly because we haven’t delivered the product we were supposed to.”
“What I think would probably be helpful maybe at a future meeting is to try to drill into some of the specific concerns into how investigations are handled and see if we can learn from that and go forward,” said Melekian. “My own experience is that training is a good thing, but figuring out how people’s life experience plays out with it is probably more important and we’d be glad to participate in that.”
In addition to cases of sexual assault, the memorandum addresses hate crimes, violent crimes, and includes the expectation that officers respect the unique needs of undocumented individuals.
The memorandum is available below, and on UCPD’s website.