I was riding my bike around 10:30 one evening to my home on Buchon Street when I found a police officer parked in his Dodge Charger a block away from my house. Curious as I am, I wanted to see what was going on in my neighborhood, so I looped around and approached the unit. I questioned my decision due to having a few beers in my system as a way of celebrating the end of my grueling midterms this quarter, but simultaneously my confidence level rose enough to start a conversation with “the man.” I rode up to the driver’s side window, intending to find out from a direct source who represents the authority of my college town and, more importantly, the representation of the authority that will have and already have had direct effects on my college experience.
We all pay a lot of money to be here. Most of us have support from our parents in addition to loans and, for a lot of us, jobs to boot. I’ve only been here a year and can already appreciate that I am at a polytechnic university as a social science major and a viticulture minor. It is my impression that, communally, we are going to leave this school knowing how to get $#!^ done and appreciate the camaraderie we share. You might ask, “Great, what does Cal Poly have to do with the fuzz?” Well, for one, and I’m sure most of you reading this now have read about the new noise-complaint law implemented as well as the no-warning citation periods during specified times. Secondly (and I want to mention that I never had the privilege of experiencing it), Mardi Gras’ increase of authority and, most recently, triple fines during that week of celebration.
I went to the San Luis Obispo Police Department’s Web site and read about the program. I was fairly impressed with it and thought the officer I spoke to that evening was a pretty good guy. I also have run into some San Luis Obispo cops who were some of the most irrational, disrespectful authoritative bags of douche – if I may – I’ve met in the law system. Now I know as a college town, measures have to be stepped up to deal with the increased amount of delinquency. Presently, it is a $350 fine for an open alcohol container, plus a $20 mandatory correction fee. How many of those were handed out during WOW on Hathway Street, and how much revenue was brought in because of them? It is also $1,100 for driving without proof of insurance for vehicles, and $720 for motorcycles. Oh, they cut it in half if one can show proof of financial responsibility. That’s sweet of them. I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but you can imagine the revenues that add up. Not to mention the recent half-cent tax increase of Measure Y.
Where does all this money go? Well, the fact is that the department donates to various programs in the city such as Grad Night, the Children’s Diabetic Network and the SLO Blues Baseball Club. The question I ask, though, is are the kids in these various programs the children of the people who pay a majority of the fines? I know, it’s quite specific, but it’s something to think about. Who benefits the most from Measure Y? What’s the reasoning behind a no-warning citation? A lot of students get a little crazy from time to time and need to let loose occasionally from the stresses of school. We are part of this community too – more than 30 percent, in fact. I just wish the police department would be more rational with its decisions regarding the laws it creates for college students who are going to party regardless. There’s no reason for a no-warning citation. It would also be nice to know exactly where and how the money from those citations gets distributed. So next time you see a Dodge Charger unit, talk to the fellow officer and get your own perspective – and don’t forget to admire the beauty of his ride.
Shane Hastings is a social science junior and a guest columnist for the Mustang Daily.