Norcal meets Socal Car Show Injustice sign now

There have been few times in my life where I have seen law enforcement resort to juvenile displays of authority; however, this was the case at the Norcal meets Socal car show held in Santa Barbara on Saturday April 10, 2004. Approximately one thousand cars and even more people attended this peaceful gathering of car enthusiasts, family, and friends; a respectful and peaceful group. The law enforcement officers present did not display this same respect. Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line for our own safety, and for that the public, and us, are grateful. However, three things have provoked our disdain for them; disregard for the spirit of the law, negligence on behalf of the community, and discouragement of future, peaceful, public gatherings.

First, what the officers did was entirely legalto the letter of the lawbut we believe their actions were not correct in the spirit of the law. The involved agencies, namely the Santa Barbara Police Department and the Santa Barbara California Highway Patrol, concentrated officers outside of this event to attain citations for minor offenses that have very little to do with the welfare of our society. This behavior was grossly offensive to all who were in attendance and also many citizens that heard of these actions after the fact.

As those who are assigned as representatives of our community, law enforcement officers have a responsibility to think and act in parallel with the best interests of the community. Surely everyone knows that officers cannot enforce every single law all of the time. Thus, officers are given the subjective power of deciding when and where the law can and should be enforced. This is what we ask of them. Abusing such a power demeans the trust we place in officers. What happened at the Santa Barbara event was a clear abuse of that power and as a community of peaceful automotive enthusiasts, attending a legal event; we must speak out against these distasteful actions.

Second, there are more dangerous individuals out there than a student driving a car with brighter-than-stock headlights, a doctor driving a car with darker tint, and a family driving a car without a front license plate. The decisions made by the present law enforcement officers to focus on a peaceful, happy, and positive, legal gathering on private property represents a gross negligence on behalf of the local community. Surely, there are other crimes far more dangerous that they could have paid attention to; traffic violations for instance. While Santa Barbara may not be the most dangerous of cities, there are other laws being broken that affect our safety more than blue headlights, darker tint, or the lack of a front license plate.

Third, these actions add to the distrust of the community for officers. The organizers of this event may or may not have done the right thing in notifying the local law enforcement agencies prior to the event. However, that in itself was an early indication to the Santa Barbara Police that we were a responsible group of people looking to congregate in order to appreciate our hobbies. We extended to them our responsibility, and initially our respect. Furthermore, we added to the citys financial health by staying in local hotels, visiting restaurants, buying gas, and visiting other local businesses. In return, many of these patronsthe car show attendeeswere punished for trivial infractions. This sends the message that Santa Barbara, as a city, wishes to remain isolated and does not appreciate the business associated with legal and safe gatherings, much to the contrary, many see Santa Barbara as a significant tourist attraction.

As a group of car enthusiasts, and as citizens, we cannot let these acts of indiscretion go unnoticed. We cannot stand idly by and let those whose jobs are funded by our hard earned money abuse the power that we give them. Law enforcement should be present at these events, to make sure people are behaving in a safe and respectful manner, not harassing as many of us as possible with tickets for trivial items. We are herein speaking out against these discriminatory and distasteful actions in the hope that future events will not have similar outcomes.

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Shawna DeckerBy:
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