Despite Unanimous Opposition From Student Commission, Police and Staff Push For Adoptions of Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance

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drunk_college_kid.jpgOn January 10, 2012, Davis Police Chief Landy Black and city staff caught the Davis City Council off-guard by presenting an ordinance to preclude minors from drinking.

Chief Black told the Council, “We’re trying to do this in our efforts for 2012’s Picnic Day.”  He added, “Regardless of when it’s adopted it’s a good ordinance, it’s not going to be just a Picnic Day ordinance.”

In the staff report, this was presented as “a potential solution to curbing unlawful nuisance drinking and rowdy partying behavior, as well as punish those who choose to ignore the law,” by making “it unlawful for any person under 21 years of age to have a blood alcohol content equal to or greater than .01%, by weight, on any street or highway, or in any public place, or in any place open to the public.”

The staff report argued that, while the state regulates most issues involving alcohol, it does not completely regulate the private consumption of it.

“It seems to me that when we were thinking about the Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance, it was kind of a ‘duh’ moment,” Police Chief Landy Black told the council.

At the same time, he acknowledged that only one other community had enacted such an ordinance.

The council at that time passed the first reading of the ordinance, under the understanding that the UC Davis Student Liaison commission would weigh in and the matter would come back before the council.

In late January, the Student Liaison Commission, comprised mainly of students with a few voting members from the public at-large, voted to oppose the ordinance.

According to the staff report, the police have done the kind of follow-up they needed to do prior to the introduction of the original ordinance.

Staff reports, “The police department worked with the ASUCD Student Police Relations Chair to organize an open forum to discuss the proposed ordinance. The open forum was held the evening of February 1, 2012 on campus. The event was not well attended, however, Police Department officials did answer questions regarding the ordinance and how it would be enforced.”

The police also met the Davis Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Advisory Group.

Dr. Michelle Famula, the UCD Executive Director of Health and Wellness, summarized what became the adopted AOD recommendations regarding the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance, writing: “I want to lend my support to the recommendation that the City Council give serious consideration to a sunset clause if the Ordinance is approved. I would advise that that sunset call upon the DPD to return to the Council 12-18 months later when it petitions for renewal with data relating to the number of citations issued, the locations and dates and the BCAs, and ages of the individuals cited.”

The ordinance now contains three new subsections: “Any person under the age of 21 years [would be] immune from criminal prosecution, under this local ordinance, if they report a medical emergency where a minor has consumed alcohol. State law currently immunizes minors from criminal prosecution for being a minor in possession of alcohol or for contributing alcohol to a minor under the same circumstances.”

Second, “the Police Chief [would be required] to submit a report to the City Council regarding the effects of the ordinance on public safety in Davis, including aggregate citation data.”

Third, there would be an automatic sunset date of April 1, 2014 and the council would have to take action prior to April 1, 2014 for the ordinance to remain in effect.

However, these revisions do not deal with a number of other concerns that were raised, including the fact that party-goers might no longer have the incentive to voluntarily disperse and individuals may be encouraged to drive after drinking rather than risk walking home.

As we noted, students unanimously opposed the measure at the January Student Liaison Commission meeting.

The final version of that motion did incorporate language that left issues open and encouraged future discussions.

John Youmans, commission member from the public-at-large, made a friendly amendment to add language that the body would like to see more discussion among the various groups in the community.  He argued, “More talking needs to happen rather than is this just right or wrong.”

That substitute motion got formalized into language that was originally used in addressing the open container ordinance.

First, “Both the campus community and the City of Davis should take, and mutually support, actions which address problem alcohol consumption that is associated with irresponsible and unlawful behaviors, high risk and underage drinking, and public health and safety concerns.”

Second, “The City of Davis has a responsibility to consider the perspectives of community and campus student organizations to assure that laws restricting public alcohol consumption are fairly developed and consistently enforced to engender broad based community support.”

And third, “Student groups and their representatives have both a right and a responsibility to work with City law enforcement and government officials to assure that all perspectives regarding an Open Container Ordinance are articulated and to assure that local regulations are well promoted, understood and respected.”

The chair of the UC Davis Student Liaison Commission and President of ASUCD, Adam Thongsavat, told the body that while he liked Captain Darren Pytel, he still is bothered by this proposal and stands by his initial comments against it.

“I cannot vote for this in good faith,” he said. “In terms of relations this takes everything that the police and the City of Davis have done and stirred it up.”

“I’m 22 years old,” he said, “if I were 20 years old, I would look at this as overarching city government trying to parent my life.”

At the city council meeting in early January he said, “If I am a young person who is walking on Russell Blvd. on Thursday or Saturday nights, for no probable reason under this ordinance, the police are able to ask me if I would like to be tested [to see] if I am under [the influence of] the consumption of alcohol.”

“I do not see how that’s effective policy,” he said, adding that his peers on campus would agree with that statement.

“No one is here to say that they condone underage drinking,” he said.  He talked about the work he had done on Picnic Day and the changes that had occurred as the result of the collaborative work between the city and students.  “I see this as a step backwards, if we’re going to tackle Picnic Day and we’re going to tackle these rowdy parties… there’s a different approach that I would really stress.”

Without considerable student buy-in, it would seem unlikely that this measure will have much if any impact on overall drinking problems, and may actually add to them.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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29 thoughts on “Despite Unanimous Opposition From Student Commission, Police and Staff Push For Adoptions of Minor Alcohol Preclusion Ordinance”

  1. Jim Frame

    [quote]Without considerable student buy-in, it would seem unlikely that this measure will have much if any impact on overall drinking problems and may actually add to them.[/quote]

    What it does is give the police another useful tool to use in managing irresponsible behavior by minors. Residents of neighborhoods near campus are often subjected to obnoxious activity by intoxicated students (e.g. urinating on lawns, excessive late-night noise, verbal abuse) as the students move to and from house parties. Under current law, unless the police directly observe this behavior there’s nothing they can do in response.

    The proposed ordinance would allow the police to arrive on scene following a complaint, locate the problem students, and if they’re minors found to be in violation, impose the prescribed sanctions. That will — in theory, anyway — have a deterrent effect upon the target population.

    As a near-downtown resident who’s had to deal with this sort of thing, I wholeheartedly endorse the effort.

    .

  2. medwoman

    “What it does is give the police another useful tool to use in managing irresponsible behavior by minors.”

    While it does provide “another tool”, it remains to be seen whether or not it will be useful. My concern is that it may merely be another band aide type measure that will not have the intended deterrent effect. i would prefer that this time, energy and money be put into some type of primary preventative action rather than another after the fact enforcement policy. However,I do not oppose a trial period with a quantitative analysis with cost benefit ratio to be provided by the police to the city council for review prior to a definite sunset date. I think that a one year trial with an objective assessment of efficacy is a very reasonable approach.

    I would also propose to the City Council looking at the creation of an advisory board with regard to public health issues which is where I believe the issue of under age drinking actually belongs. This would allow for a more global approach to this serious issue rather than a strictly law enforcement driven approach.

  3. rdcanning

    I am still curious why other municipalities do not have similar ordnances – particularly college towns such as Chico, Arcata, Santa Cruz, etc. And what about other states? I agree with Medwoman about coming back with data in 18 months.

  4. Barbara King

    Medwoman: Davis had a Youth Substance Abuse Commission through at least 1992, when it gave the city council feedback on the proposed Davis smoking ordinance. I don’t when or why it this commission was ended. Lea Rosenberg, who was Chair in 1992, might know.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]In late January, the Student Liaison Commission, comprised mainly of students with a few voting members from the public at-large, voted to oppose the ordinance.

    According to the staff report, the police have done the kind of follow-up they needed to do prior to the introduction of the original ordinance.

    Staff reports, “The police department worked with the ASUCD Student Police Relations Chair to organize an open forum to discuss the proposed ordinance. The open forum was held the evening of February 1, 2012 on campus. The event was not well attended, however, Police Department officials did answer questions regarding the ordinance and how it would be enforced.”[/quote]

    The police attempted to engage the students, they essentially refused by voting “no” on the ordinance and then not showing up in any significant numbers to discuss it, which is no surprise. Students seem to want unfettered rights to consume alcohol, no matter their age (“I’m 22 years old,” he said, “if I were 20 years old, I would look at this as overarching city government trying to parent my life.”). The problem is that underage drinking has become a real problem in this town, as evidenced by Picnic Day and beyond. Since students were not part of the solution, the city has no choice but to make a stab at crafting a solution. I have no problem with making this ordinance a limited pilot project, that includes data collection. If the students don’t like it, then they should start thinking about coming up with their own proposed solutions. Bottom line, townspeople are fed up with underage drinking that gets out of control…

  6. David M. Greenwald

    ” The problem is that underage drinking has become a real problem in this town, as evidenced by Picnic Day and beyond.”

    Do you have data to back this up?

    “which is no surprise”

    Well it is no surprise because the police tried to impose this first before reaching out to the students, I have yet to see a dialogue rather than directives, and the police chief really seems to want this but he did not go about getting it the right way and the students are not happy and at this point not going to be willing to engage, the atmosphere was poisoned.

    The funny thing is it did not have to happen this way – students took a leadership position on toning down picnic day last year but the approach from law enforcement and city hall was very different.

  7. 91 Octane

    “Do you have data to back this up?”

    yes. its called picnic day.

    vanguard: “Well it is no surprise because the police tried to impose this first before reaching out to the students, I have yet to see a dialogue rather than directives,”

    the students have had decade upon decade to discuss it….
    decade upon decade to work to address the problem…. then when the first mention of curfews or laws regarding underage drinking is brought up the students SIMPLY SAY NO AND THEMSELVES SHUT THE DISCUSSION DOWN…. if the students wont police themselves………

    “students took a leadership position on toning down picnic day last year but the approach from law enforcement and city hall was very different.”

    well, their best isn’t good enough.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    “yes. its called picnic day.”

    That’s not data, that’s a sentence. We know what happened during picnic day two years ago, I have not seen breakdowns of underage offenders either two years ago or last year.

  9. Steve Hayes

    Picnic Day, Juvenile Drinking Downtown, and a Dry UCD Campus:”A Tale of Two Cities”
    The phrase, “…to not find something, you have to know exactly where it is, so you can look there last…!” can apply here! To not find the cause of current Picnic Day problems (the character of the City changing for the worse*), we will not examine the obvious cause until all other diversionary options are examined.
    On the evening of Picnic Day 2011, my wife and I drove through downtown Davis because we wanted to listen to the battle of the bands on the UCD Campus. During our transit, we had to carefully dodge roving masses of young adults wandering throughout downtown in search of a good time at the ever increasing number of clubs and bars that have sprung up in the Core Area to welcome them*.
    When we finally got to UCD, we sat on a bench overlooking Lake Spafford and thoroughly enjoyed the enthusiastic student band concert. A full moon rose over the scene to the south as the evening progressed, and everyone at the concert seemed to have a good time, in spite of the on campus no alcohol policy.
    __________
    *Because many of the Davis Core Area restaurants now convert to bars/clubs after 1000 PM and remain open until midnight or later on weekends, Davis has become a destination “Party Town” and late night drunkenness and disorder has become more common. Future Picnic Days will continue to be coordinated chaos unless this trend is reversed

  10. biddlin

    “…Davis has become a destination ‘Party Town’… ” Really ? We live 30 minutes away and I have never heard any of my 20-30 something kids or their friends say “Dude, we gotta get our drink on in the D.”

  11. Mr.Toad

    The police had one meeting that was not well attended. Maybe the kids were busy studying for their vector calculus test or something. Maybe the cops should try again with more meetings and more outreach. Maybe the students have decided that the old farts who run Davis are going to make it ever more oppressive and criminalize more behavior while making it easier for the police to bust the little brats instead of dealing with it as a pubic health issue. I’ll tell you this I’m not voting for any incumbent that votes for this sucker and I encourage all young people to register to vote. Its an election year and if you don’t like the Davis City Council and cops acting like your parents than grow up and vote!

  12. medwoman

    Mr.Toad,

    At the risk of sounding much more conservative than I am, surely you are not suggesting that students vote in ways to make it harder for the police to enforce reasonable safety measures within our community are you ? Because from your last post, it certainly sounds that way.
    As far as additional outreach and ongoing efforts too address the problem in a collaborative and comprehensive manner, I am in complete agreement.

  13. JustSaying

    [quote]“However, these revisions do not deal with a number of other concerns that were raised, including the fact that party-goers might no longer have the incentive to voluntarily disperse and individuals may be encouraged to drive after drinking rather than risk walking home.”[/quote]So, now those who felt as though they didn’t get a chance to give their opinions had have had their chance. If this bullshit are the best arguments against this modest change, I’m concerned about what kind of critical thinking UCD students have learned here. There’s no data to back up this sentence and no common sense either.

    medwoman’s concern essentially is that we’re not going far enough. She’s right. This is a baby step, and it really hasn’t and won’t take much time and energy. But if it might keep one buzzed kid from killing himself or someone else, it’s good enough for me.

  14. Mr.Toad

    Really, how many buzzed under 21 kids have killed gotten killed walking down the street. I would also submit that this is not modest change but instead a tool to harass young people. Its only modest change if you are not under 21. There is also unanimous opposition from the student relations group so if that is not supported why bother with the facade of having the group?

    When people seek change and dismiss opposition claiming that something is just a tool we should be skeptical. Sophisticated tool making is what sets us apart from the rest of the animals. It is what gives us our advantages. Essentially by enacting this we are saying we want control over kids as old as 20, on a year round basis, to stop and harass them for walking down the street and being suspected of having ANY measurable amount of alcohol in them. Obviously an ordinance so ripe for abuse it takes my breath away. Suppose some kid goes over to a friends house after taking a vector calculus midterm and relaxes with some wine and walks home. This would subject that kid walking home to arrest. Oh you might say that is unlikely, but you can’t guarantee that it won’t. What if that kid is black and its late? Davis Police are notorious for harassing young people of color.

    This is taking a police bludgeon to a social health issue. What other means of reducing the problem have we attempted to date, aimed at addressing the problem, before turning the police into the alcohol gestapo? Perhaps if we had a marijuana club the kids wouldn’t be drinking so much to control their stress. I remember one time a few years ago a friend and I were at a concert at the Whole Earth festival. The college kids kept offering us beer. My friend asked me “What’s with all this beer?”

    “Its all they have, they don’t have access to weed. Its a good thing. It means they accept us,” I replied. Now you want to put the screws on them for social behavior they have been conditioned to understand is customary and is the drug they have easiest access to finding. Its no wonder they see the cops as the enemy instead of their protectors and feel that they are unwelcome in town.

    Finally, a year around ordinance precipitated by a one day event is overreaching. We would be better off moving picnic day to Sunday or making it a campus event by keeping the parade and other activities on campus than criminalizing the behavior of our young people. Say no to the tools of oppression.

  15. Jim Frame

    [quote]a year around ordinance precipitated by a one day event[/quote]

    Anyone who lives near campus knows that student partying isn’t a one-day event; it happens pretty much weekly during the academic year. (For some reason Thursday nights have gotten popular of late.) When you have several “informal dorms” — rental houses set up to pack in five, six, sometimes more student residents — located in your neighborhood, the rowdy late-night pedestrian traffic is a problem in search of a solution.

    The proposed ordinance isn’t likely to be used for harassing anyone; there are way too few cops on the street for that to be an issue. It’s a tool to be used when so many neighbors complain about party traffic that the police grudgingly agree to send a patrolman to investigate. The cops don’t like to use scarce resources responding to noise and petty vandalism complaints, but when they do they want that response to be effective in reducing the problem now and in the future. The proposed ordinance provides them with the means to bring a meaningful sanction to offending minors.

    .

  16. Mr.Toad

    “Chief Black told the Council, “We’re trying to do this in our efforts for 2012’s Picnic Day.” He added, “Regardless of when it’s adopted it’s a good ordinance, it’s not going to be just a Picnic Day ordinance.’ “

    So then is picnic day the problem or is it the Krystalnacht of Davis student oppression.

    One thing I wonder is who thought this up did the chief come up with this on his own or is he representing some cabal of people in the city?

  17. JustSaying

    [quote]“First they came for the half-stoned 17-year-olds….”[/quote]And, it’s all been plotted by some Nazi cabal hanging around Davis, aiming to do away with the town’s principle business. Sure, Mr. Toad, sure.

  18. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Really, how many buzzed under 21 kids have killed gotten killed walking down the street. [/quote]

    It is my understanding that alcohol consumption was implicated in at least one of the 3 recent student pedestrian deaths in this town. Alcohol consumption at levels that impair one’s ability to think and walk properly is DANGEROUS.

  19. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Well it is no surprise because the police tried to impose this first before reaching out to the students, I have yet to see a dialogue rather than directives, and the police chief really seems to want this but he did not go about getting it the right way and the students are not happy and at this point not going to be willing to engage, the atmosphere was poisoned. [/quote]

    The students didn’t show up for a dialogue bc they are not interested in dialogue, they are interested in getting their own way – to be able to drink to their heart’s content, and d_mn anyone who gets in their way to enjoy themselves however they want.

    I had a roommate of mine at grad school who used to go out every Sat night and get drunk. Invariably it meant she vomited every Sunday morning, and was as sick as a dog the entire day. I would often ask her how this could be “fun” when the physical repercussions were so unpleasant. But she kept on doing it – despite what her body was screaming at her not to do. Youngsters do very stupid things…

  20. medwoman

    Jim Frame

    “The proposed ordinance provides them with the means to bring a meaningful sanction to offending minors. “

    I doubt it. Another weakness of this proposal is the voluntary nature of the beathalyzer test. Think back to when you were 19 or 20. If a policeman had stopped you on the street suspecting you had been drinking and had enquired if you would like to take a test to prove it, would you have said “yes”. I know I would not. The suspects refusal will then result in stepping back to square one with the policeman just having to use his best judgement. With one important difference. The suspect may now have a feeling of empowerment. Have all of us over 30 really forgotten that a major part of the mentality of many youths is thrill seeking, challenging authority, and the magical thinking that allows them to believe even in the face of statistics and facts to the contrary, that they will not be caught and that nothing bad will happen to them ?

    Just Saying is correct that I believe that this is too small a step. I also believe that it is a step in the wrong direction. May it prevent a few lawn urinations ? Maybe, but I’d does nothing to address the far more important public health issues of drinking and drug use amongst our high school and middle school students. For those who don’t think this is an issue, I would recommend checking out the “water bottles” of students at the Market Place, or the shopping center adjacent to DaVinci.

    What I would recommend is to give up the notion that this is primarily a limited law enforcement issue and to treat it as the public health issue it is. I would recommend a collaborative effort including the police, public health professionals such as school nurses, social workers, substance abuse counselors, pediatricians and student representatives to address the problems in a comprehensive and preventive rather than divisive and punitive manner.

  21. Jim Frame

    [quote]Another weakness of this proposal is the voluntary nature of the beathalyzer test. [/quote]

    Refusing consent for a breathalyzer test doesn’t prevent issuance of a citation. If the citation is challenged, it becomes a matter of the suspect’s word against the cop’s word. Absent very, very unusual conditions, in court the cop wins and the citation is sustained. No weakness there that I can see.

    .

  22. medwoman

    Jim Frame

    This being so , exactly what do you think adding the optional breathalyzer test adds to the process besides the possibility of exonerating a possibly innocent suspect which would hardly be the police intent ?

  23. Jim Frame

    [quote]This being so , exactly what do you think adding the optional breathalyzer test adds to the process[/quote]

    An airtight case. People do funny things when confronted by police, and the latter take full advantage of the fact. Cops are trained to guide suspects toward responses that are incriminating. I’m sure they’ve developed some convincing spiels about how the breathalyzer is just so they can see if the suspect is safe to walk home or somesuch.

    There’s an excellent video on YouTube (http://youtu.be/6wXkI4t7nuc) that features a criminal defense attorney explaining why you should never talk to the police about an active case, but after he’s done a detective presents essentially the same advice but from a cop’s perspective. He describes a bunch of interview tricks they use to get suspects to incriminate themselves. It’s well worth the time it takes to watch.

    .

  24. medwoman

    Jim Frame

    ” Cops are trained to guide suspects toward responses that are incriminating. I’m sure they’ve developed some convincing spiels about how the breathalyzer is just so they can see if the suspect is safe to walk home or somesuch. “

    I am afraid this rather makes the case for distrusting and disrespecting the police even more. Trust is based on honesty and integrity. If the police are willing to lie to the students, it does nothing to promote respect and trust, quite the opposite. What better way to demonstrate to the students that the police are there to catch and punish, not to protect them. What a shame that I agree with you that this will be an ensnaring spiel, not a means to protect the student or to address the broader issue

  25. medwoman

    Jim Frame

    And I really enjoyed the video. Thamks for sharing. I am glad that my advice to my children has been supported by both sides of the legal system, and is apparently not just the outdated paranoia of an aging war protester.

  26. jimt

    Actually I advocate lowering the drinking age to 19 thruout the USA.
    It angers me a bit to think that an age 19 young man who puts his life on the line in military combat can’t come back to the USA and go out and have a drink with friends…
    Is alcohol use and abuse by students worse than in the past? I think not on the whole; I guess many Davis-ites have just grown less tolerant of drunken behavour that is often obnoxious, but rarely serious (with drunken driving an exception that sometimes indeed has serious consequences).

    Alcohol has traditionally served as a kind of social safety valve, a way to blow of steam and let loose; or using an alternative syntax, a way of releasing excess energy.
    A no-tolerance policy on alcohol for those under 21 might succeed in reducing some undesirable behavours, but the cooped-up energies building up in pressurized, indebted college students might get vented in equally undesirable or even worse ways…

  27. JustSaying

    [quote]“… the cooped-up energies building up in pressurized, indebted college students might get vented in equally undesirable or even worse ways…”[/quote]Oh, my God, what could possibly be in store for us now?

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