The cops and the kids
What to do if they come for you
Supposedly, we go to college to get an education, not just in what the Spanish-American War was about or how to solve for x, but a real education—a life education. That means you make some friends, you have some fun, and along the way you make a few mistakes. The friends and the fun will still matter after you graduate, but arguably not as much as the mistakes.
Let’s put it this way. If you can get through your four years here (all right, since we’re being honest, your five years here) without crossing paths with the police, then you’ll be one of the lucky ones. Most Chico students will have to deal with the cops at least once during their academic careers, whether it’s for a speeding ticket, a noise violation or (gasp!) a drunk-in-public arrest.
Obviously, you would be wise to stay out of trouble in the first place. You could steer clear of people who are obviously flirting with disaster; you could minimize the booze intake, or you could just hang around the library and study all the time. But since you probably won’t do any of those things, you should at least be ready to deal with the consequences of your actions. So with that in mind, we offer the following tips for those times when the red lights are flashing and the law is coming down.
1: Recognize that police are people with a job to do.
If there’s one thing cops hate, it’s being called out to the same places over and over again. The vast majority of police calls in Chico are alcohol-related, and dealing with drunks all day, every day, is bound to make a person testy.
Chico PD’s community service officer, Tim Truby, laid it down like this: “If somebody calls us, we are legally obligated to go out there. This is our job. When you’re on that side of it, you get the full impact of the 100,000 calls for service we get in a year. It’s hard for officers to be courteous and understanding when they deal with the same issues again and again.
“Chico police are not against students; they’re not out to shut the party down. But just like anyone else, they have a job to do. You can do your partying, but just keep it safe, don’t get into fights and don’t bring it to the streets.”
2: Know your rights, especially the one about remaining silent.
A lot of people who try to talk themselves out of trouble only end up digging themselves a bigger hole. Cops are not judges, and if they thought you were innocent, they wouldn’t be messing with you in the first place. Save your legal arguments for the courtroom. Any lawyer worth his degree will tell you that whatever you say when you’re arrested can be used against you later. If you get caught lying about your age or your identity, it’ll come up in court, along with any mistakes the police might have made.
If you feel that your rights are being violated, hold your ground but stay calm and make it known in a way that doesn’t inflame the situation. You might be right—the cops might not have a good enough reason to search or arrest you, but there they are, doing it anyway. Save the Perry Mason act for later and don’t give the police a reason to pile on the charges.
3: Know when a situation has gotten out of control.
Good times can go bad in the blink of an eye, and when you’re in the middle of it, it’s sometimes hard to figure out when enough is enough. Don’t wait for the blood to flow. Don’t wait until your girlfriend turns blue. Keep your wits about you and realize that the bad things that sometimes happen to people do not always happen to someone else.
You don’t have to be a snitch, but you don’t have to be a sheep either. The police don’t expect you to call them if somebody’s passing a joint around at a party. But if something goes down that ends in tragedy, and it turns out to be something that you could have prevented, you’ll end up dealing with that fact for the rest of your life. Ask yourself if it’s worth it, then trust yourself to make the right call.
4: Watch out for your friends and expect the same from them.
If you really want to “get your boy’s back,” keep him from getting into trouble in the first place. If you know your girlfriend has a tendency to wander off, keep an eye on her. You don’t have to be paranoid to know that a lot of unpleasant stuff can happen to people who end up stumbling home alone, even in “safe” little college towns like Chico.
If you see a friend being arrested, find out what’s going on but try not to get in the middle of it. You can help a friend a lot more by getting him out of jail than by being stuck in there with him. Get the name of the arresting officer, which agency he or she is with (it will likely be Chico police, University Police or the Butte County Sheriffs’ Office), and find out what your friend is being charged with. Then call the appropriate agency and make arrangements to bail him out.
5: Don’t be stupid.
You’re not a master criminal—you’re a college student. What works in Grand Theft Auto does not work in real life. If you get physical with the cops, you’re going to get taken down, and instead of a ticket you’ll end up with a resisting-arrest charge. If you run, you’re going to get chased, and you’ve all seen Cops—how often does the guy with no shirt and a gun in his sock actually get away? Don’t be that guy.