The City-UCD Student Liaison Commission voted not to support a recommendation to Davis City Council for the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act on Jan. 8 in a 4-2-0 motion. The commission is made up of 11 voting members and nine non-voting members that include UC Davis students, community members and law enforcement.
The Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act has been in the works for about three years. It states that a person under the age of 21 will be arrested if they are in a public place and they are presumed to be under the influence of alcohol, even without a preliminary alcohol screening test. Said individual can, however, request a preliminary alcohol screening test.
While the commission has consistently voted not to support the ordinance, Davis City Council is still capable of voting to pass it. There are currently no set plans to take it to City Council.
ASUCD Vice President Bradley Bottoms, a fourth-year political science and sociology double major, voted not to support the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act. He comments that while binge drinking on our campus is a problem, the ordinance is not the most effective way of addressing the issue and that it will instead adversely affect students’ health.
“A lot of the culture around this ordinance has been about noise rather than about alcohol … they are trying to add … ‘a tool in the tool-box’ to help control these parties … I also didn’t like how the ordinance almost pits students versus the police when the police should always be there to serve the community rather than being punitive,” Bottoms said. “I don’t think that’s effective for the health of our students or the culture of the town.”
Captain Darren Pytel of the Davis Police Department (DPD) drafted the Minor Alcohol Preclusion Act. At the commission meeting, Pytel expressed that the act is less geared towards high-schoolers because he feels they cause less disturbance. He said it is the older 19 and 20 year olds who cause a greater disturbance in the neighborhood.
Individuals leaving a party in control will not meet the standard for the ordinance.
“It’s a bell shaped curve. There’s people that will never have any problems … you’ve got that group that is always the problem. A little bit of consequence may end up changing their behavior … passing this is a huge educational tool,” Pytel said at the commission meeting.
Bottoms and some other community members disagreed with this comment because students at UC Davis “know the rules and tend to follow them.”
“We’re not all perfect student leaders … there was a lot of rhetoric thrown around of ‘well it’s only the under-21-year-olds that cause noise because they are different when they drink.’ Eighteen year olds tend to have a lot of life experience … I don’t think a difference of one year makes the difference of a loud versus a not loud partier,” Bottoms said.
Bottoms adds that though some believe there is a historical precedent for the act, we would be the first college town to have this kind of ordinance. Cities like San Diego, Santa Cruz and Chico have curfews for kids under the age of 18.
“In all of these places a police officer doesn’t have the ability to stop you and breathalyze you. I think that’s pretty degrading to [UC Davis] students of such a high caliber,” Bottoms said.
Some members of the commission believe that an ordinance may be beneficial to the health and wellness of students and the community. Residential manager of The Colleges at La Rue Apartments and commission member Trish Whitcomb states she believes both sides make very legitimate arguments and that the police have valid concerns about the safety of kids.
“Our overall position is that we understand both sides. We understand the concern of students and their belief that they could be targeted but also we support the police department’s desire to make sure students are safe as possible,” Whitcomb said.
She adds that she has never experienced the animosity students speak about with police because she’s always witnessed positive interactions.
Most commission members, even if they don’t agree with the language of the act do agree that the premature alcohol use in our community should be addressed.
Executive vice president of the Interfraternity Council and commission member, Mitch Davis, a fourth-year biochemistry and molecular biology and applied mathematics double major, believes the act is “well intended but misguided” and that a problem is already established by the time someone is stopped with alcohol in their system.
“I think the ordinance will just create more problems than it’ll solve. I think there are better ways to reach out to the people who the ordinance is trying to educate — alternative and more effective means,” Davis said. “We applaud people in law enforcement and people who are trying to address problems with underage drinking in Davis, but the ordinance simply won’t benefit the fight at all.”
There are existing programs to help students such as ASUCD’s “Tipsy Taxi” which drives any student home for three dollars, the informational website Safe Party Initiative and the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) program. Bottoms believes additional measures can be taken to address underage drinking without adding a “punitive law.”
“I’d like to see a system where Davis Police can talk to first-year students before they move out of the dorms where they can say, look these are the policies. Instead of a resident advisor writing you up it’ll be a police officer with a $300 ticket,” Bottoms said.
He adds that students can play a huge part. He suggests that students get involved so that they can realize the impact the City of Davis has on their everyday life.
“Since half the Davis population is students we really should have a voice. Currently we really don’t — we are here for four years, we tend to not vote, we don’t get angry and go to City Council meetings,” Bottoms said. “My other suggestion is to be safe. Know the resources out there like Tipsy Taxi … know your limit, know your rights but really know what you can handle and what you can’t.”