Complaints about noise violations took a different spin last weekend when two graduate students were arrested and three were fined for violating the noise ordinance at a Collegetown party. Instead of dealing with complaints about loud parties, the police and city officials will be hearing from the party’s host, who is filing a complaint about how the police treated him when citing a violation.
Michael Taylor ’05 (D-4th ward) said that lately officers have been going to first-time offenders and, “solely on the basis of a noise violation, they’re actually arresting people and bringing them downtown and making them post bail for a noise complaint.”
James, a third year graduate student who spoke on the basis of partial anonymity, wrote a log of the events of the night of April 30, and early morning of May, after returning from the police station. He contacted members of the Common Council earlier this week. Taylor said the police have not yet released a report.
“They’re pushing their authority to the maximum extent possible,” James said. “The impression that I’ve got is that it isn’t the intention of anyone … that the laws be policed in that way.”
James said that the police arrived at the house at 1:30 a.m. and an officer spoke to him in an “aggressive” tone. According to James, he told the officer that everyone at the party was overage and asked why they were not just being given a warning. Another officer, he wrote, “threatens to arrest me, taking his handcuffs out and ratcheting them in front of me.”
“The officer taking me into custody handcuffs me and pushes me out into the street and into his car parked across the road. I tell him that I am cooperating fully and ask him to stop pressing pressure points on my arm. He refuses to give me his name,” James wrote in the log. He said he never found out the officer’s name.
James claimed he was handcuffed to a wall at the police station for about an hour before being released on $100 bail.
James said that in the past, police had only come when someone called in a complaint, and they were polite. “Their job is done as soon as the sound is turned down,” he said. On May 1, however, “they were just exceedingly rude.”
Taylor said “most of the time, people feel like they were treated fairly” when police came in response to a noise complaint. He said the police usually tell the person hosting the party to turn the music down and then give a verbal warning.
“The noise ordinance is working a little better than it was before,” Taylor said, speaking about its enforcement. Now, he said, “I’m doubting how beneficial that is because of the negative consequences that over-enforcement can have.”
James agreed, saying the city has “unwisely left [enforcement] to the discretion of the police.”
Ty Whilden ’04, a resident of Collegetown, said the police mistreated him when he was issued multiple noise violations for hosting a party on April 23. The party, which had a disc jockey, was broken up by the police at approximately 11:45 p.m. Without giving a warning, Whilden said, the officer gave the host a ticket for a noise violation. This was the first violation the house had ever received.
After most of the people at the party had left, another officer came to the house at 12:30 a.m. Whilden said he refused to give his name or badge number and claimed seeing someone urinate from the porch. He threatened to issue another noise violation ticket, even though, Whilden said, “pissing isn’t noise.”
Although the house was immediately emptied, Whilden was given a second violation.
“He overstepped his bounds,” Whilden said of the unknown officer. “The cops are just making up reasons to come and bust up our parties.”
Whilden appeared in court on April 28 and the judge, who Whilden said “realized the thing was bullshit,” dismissed the case.
Whilden said he has spoken to four other people in the last few weeks who have been given what they considered unnecessarily harsh treatment when receiving warnings or even tickets.
Being charged with a noise violation is not a misdemeanor offense and will not show up on an arrest record. James called it “a parking ticket-style offense.”
“Aggravated circumstances,” such as those at Whilden’s house, can result in more serious punishments. Such circumstances include having more than 25 people in a house when the police arrive, public urination, a DJ and certain volumes of music.
“The unpleasantries of being handcuffed, put in the back of a car and driven downtown should be reserved for more serious offenses,” Taylor said.
The Ithaca Police Department was unable to comment.
James said that despite the arrest, he will continue to have parties at his house. He is currently planning a fundraising party to pay the $100 fines for each of his three friends, all of whom pled guilty to the noise violation charges.
Archived article by Melissa Korn
Sun Senior Writer