Riding Along with the Santa Barbara Police Department

Weekly Column by Sharon Byrne

I spent last Saturday night with the police… this was actually a good thing.

I went on a ride-along with the afternoon shift from 4:30 PM to 1:30 AM. My host for the evening was Jaycee Hunter, a cop I’ve worked with for the past year on a number of different issues.

Full disclosure: I have spent a lot of time and energy…well, er, pestering SBPD, for a variety of reasons. When my neighborhood was suffering a wave of violence in 2008-2009, I didn’t understand why they just couldn’t camp there. Our neighborhood watch pretty much threw tomatoes at them when they said our neighbors were the problem. I couldn’t understand how they knew about the trafficking at some of our less-than-legitimate dispensaries, and weren’t cracking down. They moved at times at a pace that approximated glacial. I probably annoyed Sanchez by repeatedly asking for beat cops. I’ve raised Cain over the equivalent of legalized public drinking on the Milpas corridor due to lack of enforcement of open container laws. In short, I’ve spent a lot of time poking, prodding and pushing SBPD to be more responsive to community concerns.

It hasn’t always been the smoothest relationship, though over the past 4 years, I’ve worked closely with a number of their ranks on various issues. We’ve finally built an ongoing, daily working relationship.

Jaycee was working the Eastside beat on patrol, and suggested the idea of a ride-along. It was my birthday, so he joked this would get him out of buying me a present. Gotta’ love cop humor…

I readily jumped at the chance. First was the briefing, where I looked at several pictures of dangerous persons of interest being handed round to the oncoming shift. Then it was time to patrol.

There seems to be a rhythm to a patrol officer’s day, so if you can’t be there for the full shift, you could break it up into something smaller that maps to your interest:
Day to early evening – transient issues
Evening to night – domestic disputes, gang calls, burglary
Night – drunk driving, fights, more gang calls
Late night – bar scene, and all that comes with it

Our shift started with an illegal camping call at 119 N Millpas, The camper was behind a dumpster, on cardboard, and stuffed his sleeping bag behind the shed, after promising never to return to the site. I pointed the bag out to Jaycee, who broke down the campsite, and bagged the bag. We went looking for the man, to return it.

In trying to find him, Jaycee spied a man urinating against the wall at the fire station on Cacique St. He got a ticket for that. His only ID was a guest card from Casa Esperanza.

It had just gone dark as we spotted a transient drinking in front of Petco. Jaycee suspected he might be the guy that punched the McDonald’s manager in the face Thursday night. The man, intoxicated, swore he never went to McDonald’s, though a McDonald’s bag was at his feet. The back-up officer (they always have these turn up for arrest calls) joked maybe there was a receipt in there with the timestamp of the assault. Cop humor…

Jaycee arrested him for an outstanding warrant, and drove him to McDonald’s, as the manager and a witnessing clerk were on duty. They positively id’d him, so it was off to the jail.

That was my first trip to the jail, and truthfully, I hope it’s my last. While Jaycee was filling out paperwork (a load of it!) I chatted with the guy in back. He was only a couple of years older than me, and I hadn’t seen him on the corridor before. He came here a month ago from Santa Maria, courtesy of SMPD. On release from his last visit to the jail, he decided to stay, and checked into the shelter, to get sober, but was kicked out a week later. Missed his curfew, he said. Then he punched the McDonald’s manager, and here we all were.

We then moved onto some attempted car theft calls, gang-types gathering behind Trader Joe’s, tree down on Ortega, a guy breaking into his girlfriend’s house, a suicide call, domestic disputes, and then it was time to watch for DUIs. Three different cars pulled out onto Milpas without headlights on, earning themselves a blue light in the rearview. Finally, it was off to the bar district, and that subject deserves a column all of its own.

At 1:30 AM, I called it a night.

I highly recommend going on a ride-along to get insight into SBPD, how they assist each other on calls, and how dispatches are prioritized. They also initiate contacts on their own when they witness something. Officer responses are very procedurally bound, and the documentation required for each call is more than I ever thought. It was a very illuminating night, and helped me answer a question I’ve been struggling with a long time:

Why can’t you be everywhere we need you, all the time?

About Sharon Byrne

About Sharon Byrne Sharon Byrne found herself unwittingly thrust into municipal and political issues when she took a sabbatical from her corporate career, and moved to West Downtown in late 2008, a neighborhood in serious decay. She helped engineer a major turnaround there working with engaged neighborhood women. She served on the Franklin Neighborhood Center Advisory Committee, and the Neighborhood Advisory Council. She is the executive director for the Milpas Community Association, and currently serves on the Advisory Boards for the Salvation Army Hospitality House and Santa Barbara County Alcohol and Drug Problems. She is a former Deputy Director of Common Cause in California, and has worked on several ballot initiatives locally and at the state level. Her education in engineering and psychology gives her an unusual mix of skills for working on quality-of-life, public safety, and public policy issues.

6 Responses to Riding Along with the Santa Barbara Police Department

  1. Anonymous February 16, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    Glad they are doing ridealongs. Good insight and pr.

  2. anon. February 16, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    How does one get to do a ride-along?

  3. el_smurfo February 16, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Boycott Boy must be sleeping in to have missed this softball pitched his way. Nice little look into a day with SBPD’s union mouthpiece though…Thanks Sharon.

  4. SB resident February 16, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    Thanks, Sharon. Well-written and informative.

  5. Boycott Boy February 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Thank ES.. I’ll take a swing at that one all right!
    SBPD decided it’s best possible use of resources on a Saturday night was give the View a ride along. Can’t we just loan them a scanner or teach them how to google “On Patrol”?

    OMG You’re such a drama queen…

    I’ve been meaning to ask you; Do you even know the names of those murdered on the west side?

  6. Sharon Byrne February 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Ride-alongs are available for any citizen. Lots of people do them. Nothing special for me. What’s with the last question?

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