Apr 202008
Authors: Kathleen Harward

One of life’s annoying truths is that there are few absolutes. As somebody said it, “There is no absolute truth, not even in this statement itself.”

Sometimes I hate the notion that truth depends on perspective, but I think this is the case much of the time.

Take the “Party Patrol” initiative that the Fort Collins Police started up again Friday. It involves police officers working overtime for the sole purpose of responding to party complaints. This Party Patrol goes from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights through May 24. It will also run on Thursday nights between May 8 and 15.

There are three obviously different perspectives on this topic: neighbors who feel they have a right to sleep at night, students who are moved to celebrate spring and the end of school and the police who take seriously their job to enforce the laws.

First, don’t mistake Party Patrol to be a benign, friendly beat to warn you when your party is starting to get too loud. If your party’s too loud (in the officers’ discretion), they will issue you a ticket for violating the city’s noise ordinance, which carries a $1,000 fine and will give you a criminal misdemeanor record that you’ll carry around for the rest of your life.

Too harsh? I certainly think so, but the police call it deterrence.

The overtime program began in 2004. It was called “Party Project” and was created after a full blown riot grew from parties near campus that got out of hand. Police say their strict enforcement and overtime work has caused a 50 percent drop in noise complaints since 2004.

The neighbor perspective was driven home to me last summer by a woman near campus whose master bedroom windows faced the street. The renters next door regularly partied in the street until two or three in the morning. Conversations with the renters didn’t work. With a husband getting up early for work and small children waking up and needing her in the early morning, this woman was frazzled with lack of sleep.

Finally, the partier’s perspective: You pay good money for your abode and you ought to be able to invite some friends over to celebrate the sun and the end of a hard school year. So, do everything right — limit the numbers and the noise, chat with the neighbors ahead of time, give them your cell phone number for calling you first, and make sure you’re not serving alcohol to minors.

If the police still come knocking, be careful when the officer says, “Cooperate and I’ll go easy on you.” It seems that to most officers, “cooperate” means admit the crime and accept the charge (in all contexts, not just noise).

A year ago, the officer in charge of the party program claimed that only one in three noise violations will be charged if the resident cooperates. The trouble is, this is not a promise, and I cannot reconcile this claim with the many noise tickets we see in this office on which the officer clearly noted that the offender cooperated.

You should be cooperative in the sense of respectful, but you should not consent to a search of your house.

I highly recommend the movie Vantage Point (still playing at the Cinema Saver). With William Hurt and Dennis Quaid, it’s a drama about a presidential assassination.

I was prepared to be annoyed at the movie’s repeated rewinds of the action to show the events from different perspectives. To the contrary, the drama was spell binding and I walked out with a whole new appreciation for looking at things from different perspectives.

A wise woman from Iran put it this way: If we could stand at life’s mountaintop, we’d understand everything. But each of us is just standing somewhere on the side of the mountain, and we can’t see it all.

Kathleen Harward is the director of Student Legal Services. SLS’ column appears biweekly Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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