Noise over noise, silence over abuse

Urine and pepper spray are not the only harmful substances that the Burlington Police Department has been hurling at the students of UVM recently. Abuse of power stands out as the most disturbing thing our men and women in uniform seem to be throwing at us. In the past few weeks, I have personally witnessed and heard several stories of the Burlington police blatantly using their powers of intimidation and status to write citations and issue tickets to those who truly do not deserve them. I can let it go if the police feel the need to ticket someone who is making too much noise at a party, walking home too drunk or causing public havoc. However, I also feel that four people on a porch talking is not worthy of a $300 dollar ticket. Two weekends in a row, I have witnessed police drive down streets at a walking pace, stop for any hint of noise, get out of their vehicles and ticket the nearest college student with little to no actual reason. If the student refuses or contests, the police often threaten to call the landlord and issue citations to every person on the lease. I have also witnessed police being extremely rude and condescending toward students who are being ticketed and simply trying to defend their rights as citizens by asking why they are receiving a ticket. A Burlington city ordinance states that any noise that can be heard from the street may constitute a noise violation. However, it also specifies noise that bothers neighbors or other people. The tickets I witnessed being issued were given around 11:30 p.m., on the weekend, on streets populated by only college students.   This leads me, and hopefully any other semi-conscious human, to the same conclusion: The police are simply looking to issue tickets to fill quotas. The number of tickets written reached an all-time high last year and will surely surpass the record again this year due to an increased police presence. Ironically, the Burlington Police Department conducted a survey of issues the community is most concerned with in their 2009 Community Re-Assessment Report. The survey is available on their website and the results clearly show that noise levels are a dead last concern among 13 other issues. In a college town, the reality is that the only way for a police force to stay in business is to write spurious tickets that they know students will not contest in court because they would have to pay a court fee. My question is: Where is the protection from our protection? Students make up a quarter or more of the population of Burlington and seemingly receive only a quarter of the respect from police that other residents do. Someone has to stand up and say that college students are citizens and residents, too. We pay the taxes that support the police and we should not be treated like some menace to society.