Monday, April 23 , 2018, 8:07 pm | Fair 55º


Letter to the Editor: Unfair Tactics Won’t Solve Isla Vista Alcohol Problem

Community policing policies of the 21st century Isla Vista Foot Patrol bear only a vague resemblance to the community policing policies in force in the early 1970s, when the Foot Patrol was started. The Foot Patrol was the county’s and the university’s response to the riots of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Now, instead of focusing on working cooperatively with the community and spending much of the day walking a beat, the Foot Patrol is largely off their feet, on bicycles and even back in cars. Worse yet, laws that apply only to Isla Vista create a high potential for confrontation and undermine the potential benefits of a local law enforcement contingent sensitive to the unique needs and demands of the Isla Vista community.

The recent quote by Foot Patrol commander Lt. Olmsted that a sobering station for Isla Vista is too expensive is dead wrong. Through my experiences, I know that the opposite is true. I am a candidate for 3rd District supervisor. I’m also an expert on drug abuse treatment and prevention who worked as the medical consultant for Santa Barbara County’s Residential Alcohol Detox Program, and I was a consultant to the National Institute on Drug Abuse on rural drug abuse, to the National PTA on alcohol prevention in youths and to Hoffman-LaRoche on its pamphlet about treating drug abuse.

It is too expensive not to have a sobering station. Arresting people, booking them, putting them in jail and taking them to court has a real financial cost. Giving expensive fines to students, who often are in debt because of student loans, further marginalizes and impoverishes the student population and offsets only a fraction of total government spending when a ticket for public intoxication is all said and done. There also is the incalculable cost of alienating the community. What if the goal of the police was to really serve and protect? If that were their attitude, then Lt. Olmsted would be out front in support of a sobering station.

The county’s keg law and noise ordinance, which apply only to Isla Vista, are fuel for increasing confrontational situations between police and Isla Vista residents. An educational and treatment approach to the alcohol problem in Isla Vista would be far superior, and it would be more consistent with the recommendations of Sheriff Bill Brown’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Jail Overcrowding.

We can do this. I have taken this more effective approach in many of my previous work experiences. As founder of the Isla Vista Medical Clinic, I provided drug abuse treatment and prevention in Isla Vista and encouraged the campus to beef up its alcohol abuse treatment and prevention services, which they did. Such services have been available at UCSB for more than 30 years.

When I ran the Sutter County Health Department, I got the department involved with the County Mental Health Department in alcohol awareness and responsible drinking programs. I was on the CSU Alcoholism Task Force when we developed strategies to decrease student alcohol problems. As director of health services at SDSU, I put on the first Alcohol Awareness Day at any U.S. campus. We had the cooperation of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, the University Center and the San Diego Padres. A support group for adult children of alcoholics grew out of that Alcohol Awareness Day.

We need a constructive, creative program promoting responsible drinking. The program should include abstinence for the 10 percent of the population prone to alcohol abuse. We need an intelligent program approach with emphasis on prevention, not unfair and harsh laws that apply only to Isla Vista. If the keg law and the noise ordinance are good laws, they should apply to the entire county. If they’re not good enough for the whole county, they should not be the law in Isla Vista.

Dr. Dave Bearman is a 3rd District candidate for the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

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