Released: September 18, 1995


This is the second consecutive year Grand Jurors have observed policing efforts during the final and most busy nights of Old Spanish Days Fiesta activities in Santa Barbara. Now in its 71st year, the Fiesta attracts tens-of-thousands of visitors from throughout the region, state and country. During each evening of Grand Jury observation, police estimates place the crowd between 15,000 to 20,000 people, controlled by a police force of 40-60 officers.


To observe the effectiveness and difficulties of police forces controlling Fiesta crowds.


Grand Jury members accompanied the Santa Barbara Police Department Operations Commander for a seven-hour shift during each of the last two and most busy nights of Fiesta, Friday, August 4 and Saturday, August 5, 1995. Grand Jurors attended police briefings, and were introduced to officers from the participating police agencies, including police and probation officers from Santa Barbara Police Department, Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office, Alcoholic Beverage Control, UCSB, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Santa Paula, and Ventura. Grand Jurors were briefed on the operations strategy and tactics, then observed Fiesta crowds, interviewed officers in the field, and accompanied officers on car and foot patrols of crowds, the south and north mercados, and several bars on lower State Street.


Grand Jurors observed police officers handling inebriates, fight victims, traffic, and crowd control; and witnessed members of the Problem Enforcement Teams (comprised of officers from different communities) confront and disband suspected gang members. Officers from neighboring regions were familiar with gang members from their beats, who had traveled to Santa Barbara for Fiesta.

Grand Jurors observed large and compact crowds in areas of booths and bandstands, and how crowd control was handled and potential problems averted through effective disbursement of police forces and management strategy. Police created a strong presence and an atmosphere of helpfulness and lawfulness. Police and crowd interaction was cordial. Grand Jurors heard Fiesta participants frequently ask police officers for directions to bathroom facilities.

A police department supervisor summed up the policing strategy: "Effective policing is sometimes just being present and meeting and greeting the crowds, not just seeing how many people you can stuff into an arrest van."

COMMENDATION: The Santa Barbara Police Department and participating police agencies used an intelligent application of limited force numbers for maximum impact in controlling the last two and largest nights of Fiesta crowds. The policing agencies, individual officers and the police command structure deserve high commendations for their work.

FINDING 1: The Santa Barbara Police Department, in conjunction with the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), effectively provided crowd and alcohol controls at lower State Street bars.

FINDING 2: The music and various Fiesta activities set a tone for crowd behavior.

FINDING 3: There were abundant bathroom facilities at De la Guerra Plaza, site of the largest Fiesta crowds, but they were not easily locatable by the public.

AFFECTED AGENCIES (California Penal Code Section 933c requires that comments to Grand Jury Findings and Recommendations be made in writing within 60 days by all affected agencies except governing bodies, which are allowed 90 days):

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