Recently on Huffington Post, investigative reporter Radley Balko related the story of Jessica Shaver, a Chicago beauty salon worker who has had the harsh reality of policing brought down on her. In 2010, she was attacked and beaten by thugs outside of a city bar. The police did nothing, but the intrepid girl spent months sleuthing out the evidence and then pestered a city alderman into doing something. That got her story showcased in a community newspaper, which took the Chicago PD to task for sitting on its hands with its criminal “investigation.”
Soon after, the cops raided Jessica’s home on a “tip” that there were drugs there.
Coincidence? Depends on who you ask. But it illustrates a larger point.
In today’s landscape, many city police are uninterested in violent crime or investigating anything that requires man hours with no recompense. Yet they’ll spend hundreds of man hours, tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, and put officer’s lives at risk in no-knock raids over a few grams of prohibited materials.
Had your home broken into, your car stolen, or been a victim of mugging? Sucks to be you. Got an eighth bag of pot in your pocket? They’ll show up in force with tasers, pepper spray, and machine guns drawn.
Anyone see a problem here?
The police used to be there to “protect and serve” – it’s still printed on some of their cars, actually. More and more, however, they’re showing that they’re really there to “raid and seize”.
The perverse War on (some) Drugs has created a paradigm in which police are incentivised into ignoring real crime and instead pursue non-crimes like possession or even low-level distribution. For their drug work, they get nifty federal toys, all kinds of extra-constitutional police powers, money from forfeiture seizures, and paramilitary gear and training. For standard criminal investigations of violent crime or crimes against property? They get only your tax money and a salary.
Of course they’re going to focus on drugs and ignore real crimes. It’s in their best interest.