Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mark your calendar, Isla Vistans!

This year the UCSB Associated Students' Legal Resource Center will host its annual workshop at Embarcadero Hall for those interested in learning how to have a fun, yet safe and arrest free Halloween celebration in Isla Vista this year. The event will take place on October 28, 2008, at 7 p.m. Last year myself and Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriff Miles Davies shared the stage where we voiced our surprisingly similar persectives on this subject matter with a bright and inquistive audience of prospective Halloween revelers. Also in attendance were attorneys Robin Unander and David Andreasen of UCSB's Legal Resource Center. I heard that not a single one of the attendees got arrested last Halloween; thanks to us. Actually, I have no idea if that's true...

This year the event will include a Halloween costume contest. Prizes will be awarded to the best and scariest costumes as well as to the costume most likely to get you arrested. And, every legitimate contest entrant will receive a gift from the store! So, don't miss this great opportunity to show off your costume in a well lit environment of, mostly, sober people.

It promises to be the best annual workshop yet. See you there!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Open letter to Sheriff Bill Brown

Dear Sheriff Brown:

Apart from my concern that more jail space leads to stiffer penalties for petty crime, I congratulate you for getting the job done in terms of securing a $56.3 million grant to construct a new North County Jail. You are keeping your campaign promise, and are doing well to eventually reduce the health and safety hazards presented by having too few beds for the current inmate population at the Santa Barbara County Jail in Goleta.

I will remind you that part of the County Booard of Supervisors' willingness to approve of your plan was based upon your representations that there would be money spent on social programs to address substance abuse and mental illness, the two biggest factors leading to incarceration.

Although it was never promised as part of the plan, I strongly believe that the County of Santa Barbara should install a sobering center in Isla Vista pursuant to Penal Code section 647(g). It is clearly the State's policy to civilly commit individuals who are found to be unsafely inebriated in public, and not to criminalize them. Isla Vista, which claims a huge share of all public intoxication arrests, needs to afford law enforcement the option of a civil commitment. Until that happens, I would urge your agency to follow the spirit of the law (647(g)), by releasing those who are brought to the County Jail on a lone charge of public intoxication pursuant to Penal Code section 849(b), which means that they will not face prosecution. This, in effect, makes the commitment civil, rather than criminal.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Thanks to the MANY who have made our roads safer.

Traffic fatalities are at an all time low. That's great news. I am grateful for the efforts of those who have worked hard to make our roads safer and, yes, counted among them are the men and women of law enforcement. But, let's not exaggerate their contributions, especially when doing so tends to suggest that more aggressive enforcement of traffic laws is the one and only solution to the insurmountable problem presented by the inherent dangerousness of millions of large one to two ton vessels of steel and glass whooshing by each other at high rates of speed with soft-shelled humans inside. Keep in mind that more aggressive enforcement of laws leads us further and further into a police state where our privacy rapidly erodes. Losing sight of, and otherwise foresaking, the most cherished values of this great land is an insidious problem that rivals traffic fatalities. The idea that, in the name of further reducing traffic fatalities, we should look toward aggressive enforcement of traffic laws and checkpoints as the only solution to the problem of traffic fatalities is a tragedy unto itself.

Yes, law enforcement officers face risks and are paid relatively little for the challenging and vital nature of their work. No question about it. However, let's not forget the countless others who work hard to reduce traffic fatalities. A spokesperson for the CHP, Daniel Barba, perhaps without intending to do so, completely disregarded the important efforts of the auto industry for making safer cars, the traffic engineers for designing safer roads, the caltrans workers for building and clearing those roads, the EMS personnel for providing triage, the Firefighters for their vital work, the members of the medical profession for their contributions, the tow truck drivers for clearing disabled vehicles, and the many common carriers (such as cab drivers) for offering alternatives to driving. All of these folks deserve some of the credit for reduced traffic fatalties, if not a good deal of it. Nevertheless, the CHP seems quite willing to claim all of the credit where it states that seatbelt usage, speeding, and DUI are THE 3 leading factors resulting in traffic fatalities, and that they and they alone have an impact on the reduced instances of these dangerous behaviors. It is without question that law enforcement serves to deter dangerous behaviors by their ongoing enforcement efforts, and their visibility on the roadways. Their education campaigns are likely beneficial as well. And it may very well be that more of these activities will further reduce traffic fatalities. What concerns me, and hopefully concerns you, is that mindless support of aggressive law enforcement diminishes our freedom; the very freedom that hundreds of thousands of Americans have died on the battlefield to defend.