This is already been pretty well picked up elsewhere while I was busy converting the blog: see How New York’s Finest Get the Weed Out at Reason and Scott Morgan’s Police Will Do Anything to Arrest People for Marijuana, but I wanted to make sure I mentioned it.
I’m talking about Harry G. Levine’s article: The Epidemic of Pot Arrests in New York City in Alternet.
You see, in New York, having a small amount of marijuana in your pocket is not an arrest-able offense. However, having it out in the open is.
According to U.S. Supreme Court decisions, police are allowed to thoroughly pat down the outside of someone’s clothing looking for a gun, which is bulky and easy to detect. But police cannot legally search inside a person’s pockets and belongings without permission or probable cause.
However, police officers can legally make false statements to people they stop, and officers can trick people into revealing things. So in a stern, authoritative voice, NYPD officers will say to the young people they stop:
“We’re going to have to search you. If you have anything illegal you should show it to us now. If we find something when we search you, you’ll have to spend the night in jail. But if you show us what you have now, maybe we can just give you a ticket. And if it’s nothing but a little weed, maybe we can let you go. So if you’ve got anything you’re not supposed to have, take it out and show it now.”
When police say this, the young people usually take out their small amount of marijuana and hand it over. Their marijuana is now “open to public view.” And that – having a bit of pot out and open to be seen – technically makes it a crime, a fingerprintable offense. And for cooperating with the police, the young people are handcuffed and jailed.
People really need to know about this kind of stuff. Serve and protect is a thing of the past. Deceive and destroy are the mottos of today.
Consider this story. A school teacher who liked to smoke pot on his own time in his own home was robbed. He told the police that it was money that was stolen, not pot (he would have been stupid to say that his pot was stolen). The robber was caught and made up a bunch of stories about the teacher having child porn, hosting drug parties for underage children, etc. So the police released those un-investigated allegations (which turned out to be false) to the media, destroying the teacher’s life, and jailed the teacher for pot and obstruction of justice (failing to say that it was pot that was stolen from him). The thief wasn’t charged.
Or, read this story To Catch a Stoner in Oregon. Tigard police have been on Craigs List trolling for lonely men.
â€œTuesday is my last day at work this week and I wanna party on Tues night!! Iâ€™m a hot blonde who has all the right moves.â€ The ad promised to trade those moves to anyone who could offer some â€œ420,â€ or marijuana.
And the lonely guys who responded?
Walsh had 3.5 grams of weed in his pocketâ€”normally enough to earn him nothing more than a ticket. But because heâ€™d agreed to trade drugs for sex, the cops charged Walsh with misdemeanor prostitution and delivery of drugs, a felony, and booked him into Washington County Jail.
Fortunately, the DA’s office is refusing to prosecute some of the cases, realizing that it’s classic entrapment. (Read the whole article, it’s quite interesting.)
I would like to see the day where the public could feel comfortable with trusting the police. Right now, that trust just isn’t there in most cases (that doesn’t mean that there aren’t individual officers that I trust and admire â€” there are â€” just that the occupation as a whole is tarnished, largely by the drug war).
It’s important to remember that the police are allowed to lie to you. Some take quite a bit of pride in that fact. When they say that they’re your friend and that it’s in your best interest to cooperate fully with their requests, it isn’t true. And finally, there is never a good reason to voluntarily consent to a search. Ever.