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In the Fray

The party’s over at the College of Santa Fe

December 10, 2008, 12:00 am

A small sticker on Kerner’s door, printed by the Oregon-based CrimethInc Ex-Workers’ Collective, warns: “Community Watch Area—Police Not Welcome.”

“You know that’s the first thing they saw when they put the flashlight up to the door,” Lester says.

Granted, throwing a loud party with an anarchist slogan on your door is like speeding down the freeway in a VW van with a giant pot leaf painted on the side. But in court papers, Officer Jaime Bisagna writes that he was simply responding to a noise complaint at Kerner’s address.

Bisagna’s report glosses over how he first entered the home. He writes: “I parked in front of [a neighboring house] and continued to hear the music. Most everyone inside the party was compliant and followed our instructions.”

Most everyone except Kerner, locked in her bedroom. “I smelled a strong odor of marijuana coming from the area of the bedroom door,” Bisagna writes.

He knocked on the door—“Open up!”

“Get the fuck out of my house, you domestic terrorists!” Kerner replied.

At which point, Bisagna writes, the entire party broke out in cheers.

With Officer McCord watching approximately 30 people, and Kerner “exciting a crowd that could have easily got out of control,” Bisagna felt “officer safety” required he open the door.

Bisagna knocked again. Kerner quickly opened the door, he says—then shut it on his foot. The officer “forced” his way in and told Kerner to calm down. “I used a calm voice and told her to just relax so we could figure things out.” Kerner swore at him again, Bisagna writes, “and then pushed me in the chest.”

As Bisagna moved to arrest her, she assumed a fetal position. He had trouble handcuffing her. The whole time, Bisagna writes, Kerner screamed so loud that someone in the area called emergency dispatch to report it.

As Bisagna carried Kerner to his car, he writes, “She reached behind with one of her hands and forcefully squeezed my genitals so hard it caused me to collapse.”
Finally, having returned to the bedroom “to locate a missing leather keeper from my duty belt,” Bisagna found a large Z-shaped bong full of warm water in Kerner’s closet.

As an institution, CSF hasn’t always welcomed the police.

It’s part of a tricky balance many colleges maintain. Administrators need to stay on good terms with the police. At the same time—because nervous parents sign so many tuition checks—they’d prefer to handle matters quietly, if and when students break the law.

“I’m not saying [the] college has ignored us,” SFPD Deputy Chief Aric Wheeler says. “But we have other entities—for example, the public schools—saying, ‘Hey guys, we want your help.’”

Police and college officials met in October and November, when relations were most tense, to hash out how they’d deal with one another in the future. Now both parties—tipped off weeks ago that SFR was planning this story—call those meetings positive and productive.

But it’s not clear what results, exactly, they produced. Police want CSF to create a neighborhood watch to keep them abreast of any problems, rather than handling problems internally. Dean Fitzpatrick, however, writes there have been “no changes to policy, procedure, or training recently.”

That may change. In the coming year, Wheeler says, administrators will give police full access to campus so officers can document its layout and be prepared in case of a Virginia Tech-style rampage.

That’s a sensible precaution. But the department’s focus on CSF is somewhat puzzling given that most of the violent crime in Santa Fe lately has occurred outside the college’s adobe gates.

The night of Oct. 20, one night after a 16-year-old boy shot another teenager outside JC Penney, Security Director Ardis sent another campus-wide e-mail, noting that SFPD would be performing “saturation patrols”—meaning two or three patrol cars per hour—on campus. This was supposedly in “response to gang violence” at the shopping center, four miles away.

CSF securityIf such patrols are meant to inspire a sense of safety, for some students, they’ve had the opposite effect.

“No one’s really sure of if they leave campus if they’re being targeted or not,” Plaza says. “So I guess they did their job, in keeping underage people from drinking.”

And maybe it’s for the best that fewer students will be shouting, “Fuck you, bacon.”

“To be perfectly honest, if I were a cop, I’d probably have a little distrust for college kids, too,” Zerkin says. “Because of the liberal-radical nature of this school, people are really quick to say, ‘The police, the pigs, are coming to get us.’ There’s probably some truth to that. But some of the students could do a better job of taking accountability for their actions.”

Two months after her release from jail, Kerner, who is estranged from her family, has only recently found a lawyer: Santiago Juarez of Española. Juarez didn’t return a message left with his secretary, but Lester and Kerner say he may file a lawsuit on Kerner’s behalf, on the grounds that police unlawfully entered Kerner’s home.

Unlike a lot of students, Lester isn’t rushing to transfer from CSF. He plans to stick it out through the spring. After that, who knows? He’d like to go some place “with real people power”—maybe Cuba.

On Dec. 8, Kerner had a date with First Judicial District Court Judge Stephen Pfeffer. With Lester in the courtroom for moral support, she pleaded not guilty to her felony charge.

Since the bust, her house has been “deserted.” By most accounts, the party scene—on and off campus—has quieted as well.

After the arrests, the ongoing patrols, the alleged rape and fears about the college’s future—which won’t go away for weeks, at least—students have heard little more than vague reassurances from the administration.

“I think they were worried about bad publicity, but they couldn’t really have any worse publicity right now,” Kerner says. “A lot of us feel like this is it—this is the school’s last hurrah.”  SFR

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