This past Friday night I spent four hours conducting a ride-along with the San Luis Obispo Police Department. From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sergeant Sean Gillham and I patrolled both the residential neighborhoods south of campus and the downtown area.
I had no idea what we would encounter and found out that there really is nothing like experiencing the late-night patrol first-hand. The police vehicles look strapped for war, but I’m told that it’s just precautionary. In fact, the officer I rode with has been with the force over 20 years and has never needed to fire his gun -. I heard the same statement come out of Cal Poly Police Chief Bill Watton’s mouth just the other day; he said that in his 32 years he’s never fired his weapon while on duty.
According to the University Police Department crime report, San Luis Obispo is a pretty safe place to live, with no murders and very few serious crimes in the last few years.
But I soon found out that a typical Friday night produces dozens of noise complaints and potential noise violations. In addition to that, a steady flow of drunk in public, minor in possession, fights, urinating in public, open container and driving under the influence citations occur. Though seeing people cited for these violations didn’t shock me, I was surprised at the frequency at which these violations were committed.
When partying, it’s important to start the night with a game plan, so here are the top five things I learned on my police ride-along:
1) You’re not fooling anyone by calling the liquid in your cup “orange juice.” If you’re outside of the house you can legally be cited for an open container violation. Police officers are permitted to question you about the contents of your beverage container. Note: a minor in possession citation is a few hundred dollars and goes on your record!
2) Nobody looks cool doing a field sobriety test. Don’t risk it; find a sober driver. DUI arrests stay on your record for years and are really difficult to explain to potential employers, banks, and parents.
3) Don’t break the seal! Urinating in public is a $350 fine! If you know that you are going to be far from a restroom for an extended period of time, prepare to hold it. or insert a catheter for those long nights (just kidding, eww!).
4) Walking in front of police cars when they are speeding down Broad Street to stop a fight at Downtown Brew is not a good idea. Turns out, you can really get hurt that way! Close your cell phone and look both ways.
5) Turning the wrong way onto Marsh Street and claiming you were lost when your driver license says you’re from Atascadero is also not a good idea. Cops know all the tricks; if you make a mistake, be more creative.
Ultimately, SLOPD and UPD are here to protect us and to promote a healthy and safe relationship between students and the rest of the San Luis Obispo community. We are all residents of San Luis Obispo and need to treat our (new) home with respect and courtesy. The choices we make today will inevitably affect the efforts and initiatives we wish to pursue tomorrow. Set limits for yourself before leaving the house, know who is driving and become familiar with the environment around you. Look out for your roommates and friends and be the person who stops the fight before it gets out of hand. Remember, responsible partying starts with you!
Angela Kramer is ASI Student Government president and a political science senior.