Getting rolled. For a lot of Piedmont teenagers, those two words are terrifying. Any mention of police gets teens leaving parties as quickly as possible, junior Milburn said.
“If you get caught and you’re drunk and your parents didn’t know you were out partying, that’s a problem,” Milburn said. “It puts a damper on the night as well because you have to go home.”
The Piedmont police department usually first hears about parties due to noise complaints, said Piedmont Police Department Sergeant Catherine Carr. Police will investigate the scene to find out the age of partiers and if there is illegal activity going on. If they find that the party does need breaking up, they will send kids home.
“If it’s someone under the age of 18, we will call their parents and have them respond and take responsibility for their kids,” Carr said. “If they’re 18 and they think they’re okay to go home, then we’ll let them go home alone.”
Carr said that the police would particularly like to stress that if there is a party that the host does not want, the police will help break it up.
“We always try to tell kids ‘Hey, if there are people there that you don’t want there, then we will come and help you get rid of the people who should not be there,’” Carr said. “The person who called us will not get in trouble for asking for help, that’s not what we’re here for.”
For the teenagers who do attend parties, police involvement can be a bit excessive, Milburn said.
“I’m not someone who goes ‘cops are pigs,’” Milburn said. “I appreciate their service; it’s not an easy job and they’re putting their lives on the line to protect citizens, and I also think that they play a bigger role in party culture than they need to. They could play a lesser role in party culture and no one would die.”
However, English teacher Mercedes Foster said that the police playing a lesser role could be dangerous.
“In the case of underage parties or where there is any sort of illegal activities, I think that people should be arrested,” Foster said. “I think there should be a real deterrent because looking at this culture as a whole in Piedmont, there are an awful lot of people getting a finger wag or a slap on the wrist. I worry about that. If you’re not having to face up to the consequences of your actions, when you leave high school and go to college and there’s no one there to look over your shoulder and catch you, there are so many horrifying ways to learn the lesson.”
As someone who has seen the effects of alcoholism firsthand in her friends, Foster said that she thinks it’s important to nip the habits in the bud.
“I see those patterns starting so young,” Foster said. “When I was in high school I didn’t really realize what it was, I thought ‘oh they’re just partying’. But now I look at and and go ‘oh’. If the only way you have to not just have fun but to temper your anxiety or deal with your social fears is through drug use or drinking, you’re setting yourself up to go into the world and really suffer, and I really worry.”
Foster said that she believes that if there was a crackdown on teen drinking at this stage in their lives, it would definitely help them in the long run.
“If police crack down on teen drinking and parents stop doing the ‘oh it’s okay if they’re in my house’ thing, if it was really like ‘no, you can’t drink’, teens would be forced to find other ways to cope with anxiety and fear and their own sexuality and all of the things they use alcohol as a crutch for, and when they went out to college their relationship with alcohol might be a lot healthier,” Foster said.
Police involvement in Piedmont is different from involvement in nearby cities, Carr said.
“Each department is going to handle [parties] differently,” Carr said. “Berkeley has a lot of kids that are 21, so it’s a whole different animal. Oakland has a lot less time to respond, and when they do they might not have the time to wait for parents to arrive or to put in the resources that are needed.”
Milburn said that he agrees, detailing a scene he saw in Oakland of the police investigating a torched car.
“Something [the Piedmont police] do well is hunting down these parties because it’s the most prevalent concern in this city, but you look at San Francisco or Oakland PD and they’ve got much bigger fish to fry,” Milburn said.
Foster agreed, and said that police in other cities crack down on parties more harshly.
“You get police called to a party in my neighborhood, you’re in trouble,” Foster said.
Carr said that the unique nature of Piedmont means that the safety of kids is a priority.
“A lot of people move here for the schools, and what they expect from us is that we make every effort to protect the children and to make sure the children get home safely,” Carr said. “It is a priority for us to keep the kids in our community safe.”
Carr said that because of a spike in the amount of parties a couple years ago, there is now a Party Ordinance in section 12.10, which gives the Piedmont administration the ability to fine the homeowner of the party house up to $1000 for the police’s services. The Party Ordinance itself states that this will come into effect if the event becomes a threat to public health, peace, safety or general welfare, and that the exception would be a person who did their best to stop the event’s occurrence.
Carr said that this ordinance is used very rarely, and only if partiers don’t listen the first time they are warned.