Currently viewing the category: "Freelance"

potLast Tuesday, during a hearing on legislation that would permit the use of recreational marijuana in Maryland, Annapolis police chief Michael Pristoop testified against the bill, in the process claiming that 37 people had overdosed on marijuana the day that pot became legal in Colorado. Pristoop was apparently getting his information from the Daily Currant, a notoriously shitty, unfunny “satire” website that put up a joke piece that “reported” that those people had died back in January.

State senator Jamie Raskin, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, immediately corrected Pristoop and told him that the Daily Currant is a comedy site. Pristoop said he would check on the error, but he was “holding on to information I was provided.” The next day Pristoop acknowledged he was wrong but said the general objection to legalization still stands. In other words, his opinion was based on lies, but he wasn’t changing it.

Now, Pristoop’s job requires that he enforce the drug laws, which in theory means that he should be more educated than the general public about what individual drugs can and can’t do. What’s disturbing is that he believed such a baseless story on faith—believed it enough to bring it up in a fancy hearing!—even though YOU CAN’T OVERDOSE ON MARIJUANA.

The rest of the Bad Cop Blotter over here

policeOn Valentine’s Day, two police officers in Euharlee, Georgia, showed up at the home of 17-year-old Christopher Roupe to serve a probation-violation warrant on his father. According to a lawyer representing Roupe’s family, immediately after the teenager opened the door, an unnamed female officer shot him fatally in the chest. The officer, who’s now on paid administrative leave, told the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is now handling the investigation, that Roupe pointed a gun at her. But it’s not at all clear that’s what happened. Neighbor Richard Yates, who was interviewed by local-news station WSBTV, thought that Roupe was actually holding a BB gun and “playing a game” with another kid. (Yates also said he saw the female officer crying after the incident.) Tia Howard, another neighbor, told WSBTV that “they said” the boy had a Wii controller when he was shot.

When I called him to ask about the incident, Euharlee police chief Terry J. Harget told me he had no comment or official statement except what had been given to TV stations last week. Harget added that he hoped the truth would come out and that the considered the event a tragedy, which it certainly is.

It’s not an isolated tragedy, though. Police mistake various harmless items—Wii remotes, combs,walletspagers—for guns all the time. Frequently, you’ll hear that a suspect was “reaching for his waistband,” a common excuse/cliché in police shootings that often makes the officers more justified in letting one fly than they were. And it’s not just confrontations with suspected criminals that end in gunfire—sometimes the police simply spot a teenager with a toy firearm, or a manholding a hose nozzle, or a homeless man with a stick, and open fire.

The rest of the Bad Cop Blotter here

Rollerblade_444692_1510740Here’s my latest Bad Cop Blotter, which I didn’t even realize was up until two days ago. I have had a post-Students for Liberty Conference virus. It’s either from all that freedom, or from being in Mordor for a whole weekend. Nevertheless, read:

On October 11, 2011, Florida Highway Patrol trooper Donna Jane Watts saw someone driving a Miami police cruiser way over the speed limit, so she attempted to stop him. The driver reportedly took seven minutes to pull over the cop car, making Watts even more antsy over whether she was dealing with someone who was taking a cruiser for a joyride at 120 miles per hour. It turned out that the driver was a uniformed, on-duty officer named Fausto Lopez, who apologized to Watts and said he was late for an off-duty job. Watts arrested him anyway. He was breaking the law.

Lopez was later fired, but according to the Associated Press, Watts was subjected to a campaign of harassment, prank calls, and anonymous threats from people she suspects were fellow officers. Police vehicles and unmarked cars idled near her house. Freaking out, she even did a public records request to confirm that, yes, the police were accessing information from her driver’s license—88 officers from 25 agencies had looked her up more than 200 times in one three-month period. She’s now suing the cops and departments involved for improperly accessing her info, though many of the cops who looked at her license have been reprimanded and the agencies involved say such searches are only illegal if the information gets sold. No matter what happens in court, this is a disturbing picture of the “thin blue line” of cops who don’t look kindly on an officer who goes after another officer.

The rest here

Photo via Flickr user Karen Neoh

Photo via Flickr user Karen Neoh

Here at The Stag Blog we love Philip Seymour Hoffman and mourn his passing. I also believe that legalized heroin would save lives, especially those of the less privileged addicts or sometime-users of the drug. The idea that anyone has to weigh the fear of arrest and prison with the fear of them or a friend overdosing is a horrifying one. Those laws need to be changed now, not a few more decades after the David Brookses of the world accept that their marijuana hypocrisy might be excessive.

The below VICE piece doesn’t even cover the (also important) point that some people can do heroin or other hard drugs and not become addicted (check out: Jacob Sullum’s phenomenal Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use) and that all of this should be a personal choice, and morally speaking it is one.

When people talk about ending the drug war, they usually mean “no one should go to prison for marijuana.” There’s no doubt the public has shifted its collective opinion on pot—currently, a majority of Americans believe it should be as legal, regulated, and taxed as tobacco and alcohol—and naturally, politicians are beginning to sense the way the wind is blowing. But elected officials, like people at large, are less gung-ho about legalizing the harder drugs.

First, let’s clarify that no one is recommending that we all follow Philip Seymour Hoffman’sexample and start shooting up. Heroin is awful. Don’t do heroin. It fucks up your life. But as the case of the fentanyl-cut heroin that has killed 22 people in Pittsburgh illustrates, the only thing worse than legal heroin is illegal heroin.

The rest here

potThe drug war rhetoric is improving in 2014. Let’s see if actual policy ever catches up.

In a New Yorker profile published this month, President Obama admitted that marijuana was not that bad and the enforcement of anti-weed laws was skewed against minorities. Similarly, on Thursday Texas Governor Rick Perry voiced his support for decriminalizing marijuana and letting states craft drug laws free of federal intervention. On January 16, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he had changed his mind and that medical marijuana was a fine thing after all. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was trying to drown his state’s medical marijuana program in the bathtub not three months ago, spent part of his inaugural address delivered on January 21promising to end the war on drugs. New York Senator Chuck Schumer just said on MSNBC that states should be allowed to “experiment” with legalization. What the hell is happening? How did the war on drugs go from a fringe issue five or six years ago to this current race to out-chill your political competitors when it comes to weed policy? It’s hard to know for sure, but it seems like Americans as a whole have decided that marijuana should be legal (or at least partially legal), while our leaders’ views have lagged behind. Now we’ve reached a tipping point where it’s safe for elected officials to embrace an end to prohibition—politicians’ minds aren’t changing, but poll numbers are.

The rest of the crankiness, along with bad cops of the week, over here

Last Monday, a jury found two former Fullerton, California, police officers not guilty on one charge of excessive force, two of manslaughter, and one of second-degree murder in the beating death of Kelly Thomas. The 2011 altercation, which lead to Thomas’s death five days later, was captured in detail by surveillance cameras and audio from police recorders—on tape, the cops can be seen beating the homeless man mercilessly and Tasing him twice in the face. At one point, Thomas is moaning “Help me dad” as the officers swing their nightsticks at him.

That fairly clear video evidence, along with the activism of Kelly’s father Ron (a former sheriff’s deputy) and the mobilization outraged community, ensured Thomas’s death got a lot more media coverage than the killing of homeless people by police normally do. But the officers are still walking free after beating an unarmed man to death. (In fact, one of them, Jay Cicinelli, already wants his job back.) How does that happen? A great many people in the community are asking that same question—multiple protests against the outcome of the trial this week resulted in 14 arrests

One answer to that question is that the jurors, like most Americans, probably thought that cops are generally almost always right. A Gallup Poll from last month found that 54 percent of respondents had “high” or “very high” amounts of trust in police officers. People think more favorably of cops than they do journalists, politicians, lawyers, or even members of the clergy. The only authority figures more trusted than the police are doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and grade school teachers.

The rest here

Rollerblade_444692_1510740According to a January 9 Wall Street Journal article, the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado may mean that cops have less money to play with. When weed was illegal, police departments could cash in via civil asset forfeiture—they’d raid grow operations and dealers and seize cash and other kinds of property. Those seizures provided both a financial incentive to prioritize drug crimes and a financial perk for departments. Now, presumably, there will be fewer marijuana raids, thus less money for the cops. Washington state hasn’t earmarked any of the tax revenue soon to be coming in from the legal weed market to go to law enforcement, and Colorado may send some of their new dollars towards the cops, but not necessarily—in both states, millions of dollars normally spent on law enforcement may disappear as a consequence of the end of prohibition.

The specifics of forfeiture laws vary from state to state, but generally speaking police can take large amounts of cash (often anything over $10,000) from defendants based only on the suspicion that a big chunk of currency found during, say, a traffic stop, might be drug profits. It can also bechillingly easy for cops to take your property through asset forfeiture if a family member you live with is dealing drugs. The Department of Justice is generally very generous about sharing funds—as long as there’s tangential federal involvement in a case, the Feds take 20 percent of the assets forfeited and the rest goes to the local cops—so police departments are strongly encouraged to go after drug dealers; not only do they get photo ops with “dope on the table,” they can keep the majority of the profits from the sale of seized homes, vehicles, and property. (Not to mention that cash.) Often the onus is on the owner of the property to prove that it wasn’t involved in a crime, which can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.

The rest here