Police Power is Surging Again
Doom-scrolling can waste time, but it can also reveal patterns from all parts of the world.
The thread that ties all these stories together is that police are mobilizing in a big way. And they’re definitely NOT staying on the legal or moral side of the line. I should add a trigger warning because after these past few years of violence, the very mention of police activity is very upsetting for some of us.
STOP AND FRISK
The first clue was buried here: High Times reports that in New Zealand, next year police will begin RANDOM DRUG TESTING OF DRIVERS. For 3 years, police will pull random people over and drug test them. Cannabis is legal for medicinal use in NZ, and it’s not clear whether police will impairment or just a blood test, in which case, patients are in jeopardy.
In Hull, England, where medical cannabis is legal, “Police have pledged to knock on every single door in Hull in a major drugs crackdown… officers from Humberside Police are carrying out stop and searches across the Hull area.” The strategy is: “identifying and searching individuals that are suspected of being in possession of or supplying drugs… We know what color people get caught up in those dragnets…
In New York City, the Daily News reports the “Broken Windows” Policy is back. “Derived from a 1982 magazine article by two social scientists, the main point was that not fixing one broken window will lead to a neighborhood beset by many broken windows. “The unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window,” they say...
When “Broken Windows” extends to the people on the street, it's called “Stop and Frisk”, where the coppers roust and round up "people who look suspicious". In copper-speak this is often synonymous with BIPOC:
“… In several years of Mike Bloomberg’s mayoralty, the NYPD made more than 50,000 arrests for cannabis possession...”
“What has, perversely, not changed in the practice of “broken windows” policing is how it often it targets and apprehends low-income New Yorkers of color… the Police Reform Organizing Project regularly monitors the city’s criminal courts … “Every time we go, 85-95% of the defendants are people of color. Sometimes it is 100%.”
From the Washington Post, “A Policing Strategy Abandoned After Breonna Taylor’s Death Spreads To Other Cities” This strategy is exactly the same as Broken Windows but they call it place network investigations. … also known as “Hot Spot Policing” … pioneered by an academic posited that crime could be curbed if police and other community partners focused on geographic connections in areas plagued by violent crime. A private non-profit called Arnold Ventures, has pledged more than $2 million to evaluate the program in Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Tucson, Denver, Wichita, Baton Rouge, and Harris County, Tex.
Not satisfied with bad policies, Police in California are just going rogue:
From NBC in the San Francisco Bay Area, “Police Accused of Corruption and Theft During Pot Seizures”
High Times again, this time in San Bernardino, “Armored Car Company Sues California Sheriff and FBI for ‘Highway Robbery’ of Dispensary Cash”. … during 5 specific stops, no arrests or tickets were given—yet they led to forfeiture of all deposits in the trucks. Three particular stops alone amounted to over $1 million in cash.”
From Los Angeles, “After Paying $18m In Taxes, Jungle Boys Raided For All Its Cash In Boyle Heights” including, as was reported here, the cash in the tip jar.
THE DEEPER DIVE
Unchecked police power to deny citizens’ rights is usually found to be illegal after the fact, but by that time, the damage is already done. People are chased and arrested, and if they survive that (not guaranteed, these days), they are adjudicated and incarcerated. Families are devastated and often broken, inmates are subject to all manner of assault... and even if they are released, oftentimes their arrest records follow them for life, curtailing the ability to get a job, get a mortgage, a college loan, establish credit...
Here in the CA, a big concern is the massive funding boost that was given to law enforcement from the taxes of legal cannabis businesses. So now it seems the coppers have military hardware and massive funds, and they’re drunk on power.
And lastly, where crime exists in neighborhoods, it’s a symptom of the problem, not a cause. The problem is not crime. The problem is certainly not cannabis, by the way. But even to the extent other drugs are involved, they are a symptom. The problem is poverty.
So instead of funding police, our cannabis taxes should fund teachers, doctors and nurses, mental health workers, day care, job training, art teachers, sports coaches, to make real change.
I’ll bet at least one of them knows how to fix a broken window.
Image source: Photo by Matt Barnard from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/wood-construction-texture-wall-6696920/