Councilwoman's Collar of Surfer Proves a Wipeout

Times Staff Writer

Oceanside Councilwoman Lucy Chavez is not only a law-abiding citizen but also a law-enforcing one.

On Sunday, when she spotted a surfer violating a city ordinance forbidding wave riding within 100 feet of the Oceanside Municipal Pier, Chavez made a citizen's arrest.

Chavez's act of citizenship lost its luster, however, when she was reminded that the ordinance had been temporarily waived by City Council for an upcoming surfing competition. In fact, Chavez herself had voted in favor of lifting the surfing restriction.

Chavez declined Wednesday to comment about the incident and said she will hold a press conference today at City Hall to explain her actions.

The ordinance was first passed to cover the city against liability claims from wild surfers crashing into the pier and to prevent wave riders from disturbing fishermen on the pier, who like to pursue their hobby in peace.

But the council voted unanimously last month to suspend the restriction from July 24 to Aug. 1 for a weeklong surfing contest.

"I have to admit, it's not good business making bad arrests," said Bob George, a spokesman for the Oceanside Police Department. "But, when a citizen demands to make a citizen's arrest, by law, we are obligated to respect that demand."

Since the ordinance was suspended at the time of the incident, the ticket issued to Gerald McCullough, 21, of Oceanside probably will be dismissed, said City Atty. Charles Revlett. Under normal circumstances, McCullough would probably have been fined $50 to $100 for tangling fishing lines.

McCullough at first ignored Chavez when she demanded that he come to shore, according to police. Undeterred, Chavez left and returned with an escort--Officer Sean Sullivan--to enforce her citizen's arrest. Sullivan, not knowing that the surfing ordinance had been waived, issued a ticket to McCullough.

"Law enforcement is not the sole responsibility of the police," said Oceanside Police Cmdr. Mike Poelhman. "It's part of a citizen's duty, too. Citizen's arrests play an important role in how we police our society, and the process can be of tremendous help."

But, he added, "sometimes it can go awry."

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