Punishments don’t always fit their crimes.
At the end of finals week in May, students at the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house were cited for underage drinking. We are not disputing the illegality of underage drinking — but the circumstances surrounding the incident are strange, suspicious and cause for alarm.
The police team that issued the citations was the Alameda County Vice Enforcement Team, a countywide unit formed in January. Its purpose is to focus on human trafficking, prostitution, child exploitation, gambling, alcohol and tobacco. We have nothing against a new police team aiming at fighting vice — but there is a big difference between stopping the spread of human trafficking and busting a couple of 20-year-olds for having a few beers.
The vice team’s actions were way out of left field: If the unit’s objective is actual vice, underage drinking should be way down the totem pole.
But it’s not just that the vice unit cited students for underage drinking; it’s how they did it.
The police reportedly saw an intoxicated male on the roof and two minor females holding cups join him there. That does not seem like sufficient reason to break up a private affair, which was a small gathering of friends at an off-campus frat, not exactly a raging frat party. And it was not an instance of a second response.
The police, however, did much more than break up the party. Usually, police in Berkeley ask everyone to leave and then, sometimes, issue a citation. At least that’s the way it has been with Berkeley Police Department and UCPD. Yet on this night, the vice team entered the house and separated the individuals over and under 21 before disseminating citations to the minors. The police were also inconsistent, as some of the minors did not receive tickets.
Berkeley doesn’t need outside police forces. We don’t need a special task force aimed at curtailing underage drinking. BPD and UCPD know how to deal with students and the Greek community. They know how to deal with parties. The Alameda County Vice Enforcement Team clearly doesn’t.
Nevertheless, students need to act smart. If they are going to be drinking — specifically minors — they shouldn’t go up on roofs or out on lawns. That’s just asking to get caught. Moreover, they should insulate walls to keep the noise down and not bother neighbors.
The unit is reportedly not cracking down on fraternity parties, so we hope this instance was an aberration. It would be a bad sign for the community’s long-term relationship with cops if this type of police action becomes the norm. Regardless, the police should work with us and give us warning instead of just getting us in trouble.
Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regard to the readers, writers and contributors of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Click here to read the full comment policy.