Tags Posts tagged with "Law enforcement"

Law enforcement

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Marijuana is a precious vice for law enforcement in America—yet it is only so long as cannabis remains illegal, which is exactly what most law-enforcement lobbies and pro-police lawmakers want.

Under prohibition, cannabis is an incomparable catch-all excuse. The mere whiff of cannabis is sufficient probable cause for a traffic stop or, where the police-state tactic is still accepted, start a stop-and-frisk routine.

And that all will be over and done with as soon as cannabis is legalized.

According to a report from the Stanford Open Policing Project, which analyzed more than 100 million traffic stops across 31 states, motorists of all races are as much as three times less likely to be stopped and searched where, thanks to legalization, marijuana is no longer available as an excuse.

“After marijuana use was legalized, Colorado and Washington saw dramatic drops in search rates,” the report’s authors wrote. “That’s because many searches are drug-related. Take away marijuana as a crime and searches go down.”

As the Washington Post’s Wonkblog reported, the data includes “traffic searches initiated for any reason, but excludes searches following an arrest.” Meaning, it’s a good indication of what cops do when there’s not necessarily a clear indication of a crime being committed—and it’s proof positive that marijuana, the world’s most common illicit drug (where it’s still illegal, at least), is also deeply ingrained in police tactics.

This means marijuana legalization—a common-sense move we wholeheartedly advocate, for obvious reasons—has serious implications for communities of color who disproportionately suffer violent encounters with law enforcement.

Fewer stops mean fewer potential problems with police.

In the wake of the acquittal of the officer filmed fatally shooting Philando Castile, a Minnesota motorist whose death less than 30 seconds into a traffic stop was recorded on Facebook Live, the importance of this cannot be overstated.

The data does have some limitations, as the Marshall Project pointed out: It analyzes only data from state police agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, whose main roles are enforcing the law on highways, and not local police agencies who would be responsible for law enforcement in cities like Denver and Seattle, where most of both states’ black population is concentrated.

And as the data reveals, although stops-and-searches of black and Latino drivers dropped significantly after marijuana was legalized in Colorado and Washington in 2012, obvious and outrageous racial biases remain.

In Colorado, black and Latino drivers are still almost three times as likely as to be stopped and searched as whites. In Washington, black and white motorists briefly achieved parity in 2014.

Everywhere else the researchers “had data and recreational marijuana is still illegal, search rates remain high.”

And while the data is a potent argument for marijuana legalization as a crucial element of sweeping criminal-justice reform—all of which is at serious risk in the Trump era under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s Justice Department—the Marshall Project also suggests that legalization is not as an effective deterrent with local police.

They tell the tale of 33-year old Ryan Brown, an Iraq war veteran pulled over by police a block from his home in 2015. Brown, who was never charged with a crime, won a $212,000 settlement after he was pulled from his car without being given a clear reason.

Later, the police, who to this day claim they acted properly, said that Brown was stopped because he lived in a high-crime area—a common excuse easily deployed in any urban area.

At the same time, as Brown’s situation demonstrates, stops with no probable cause can result in ramifications, including monetary settlements, for police. And as the data shows, removing marijuana from criminal statutes would affect a profound change in police tactics and attitudes—meaning, in case it wasn’t already obvious, that cannabis legalization is a civil rights and social-justice issue that touches people who would never consider smoking a joint.

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Marijuana-Stocks-cop car

Drug policy experts often say that the health risks of marijuana use are relatively minor compared to the steep costs of marijuana enforcement: expensive policing, disrupted lives, violence, and even death.

Law enforcement agencies, however, have often been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana legalization. One reason is that the drug, with its pungent, long-lasting aroma, is relatively easy to detect in the course of a traffic stop or other routine interaction. It’s an ideal pretext for initiating a search that otherwise wouldn’t be justified — even if that search only turns up evidence of marijuana use and nothing more.

New information on traffic stops in Colorado and Washington underscore this point: After the states legalized pot, traffic searches declined sharply across the board. That’s according to the Open Policing Project at Stanford University, which has been analyzing public data of over 100 million traffic stops and searches since 2015.

“After marijuana use was legalized, Colorado and Washington saw dramatic drops in search rates,” the study’s authors explain. “That’s because many searches are drug-related. Take away marijuana as a crime and searches go down.”

In Colorado and Washington, traffic searches of black, Hispanic and white drivers fell significantly after legalization, according to the Open Policing Project’s analysis. That pattern didn’t hold for states where marijuana use remained illegal.

The Project’s data encompasses traffic searches initiated for any reason but excludes searches following an arrest. This makes the data a good barometer of searches initiated at an officer’s discretion. The numbers changed dramatically after legalization, as we see in the above chart, suggesting, as the researches do, that suspected marijuana use is often a factor in these searches.

legalization didn’t eliminate racial disparities in the searches. Black and Hispanic motorists are still searched at considerably higher rates than white motorists. But following legalization, they are searched less often than they were before.

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The DEA agents are the perfectionists among law enforcement. They aren’t quite FBI material, but still strides above police spending their days issuing routine parking tickets in small cities. The DEA has a job to do regarding implementing federal cannabis laws, however, they allegedly lie about the harm, or lack of, posed by the drug (according to a woman cops believe is spreading misinformation).

Angela Bacca of Illegally Healed brought details from a speech given by Belita Nelson at a Denver conference. A former debate teacher from a high school in Plano, TX, Belita Nelson, says she worked for the DEA from 1998 until 2004. Nelson appeared on talk shows as the agency’s willing “chief propagandist,” she stated.

“Marijuana is safe, we know it is safe.” Nelson remembered her “DEA education coordinator, Paul Villaescusa,” telling her that, according to Illegally Healed. However, “It’s our cash cow and we will never give up.”

Nelson’s loyalty was put to the test when her friend, a former football player, developed cancer. He went from 340 pounds to 140 pounds and could not sleep or eat. Nelson went out on a limb and went to ask her teenage son for marijuana. Nelson saw that the marijuana helping her friend and became an immediate aadvocate. She even began “growing the cannabis herself so that she knew it was safe,” according to Illegally Herald. Nelson resigned from the agency in 2004 during an investigation into a heroin epidemic.

Heroin addicts were finding it easier to come off the drug by using marijuana—and rather than compromise, the agency maintained its beliefs. So Nelson quit. She also turned down the DEA’s offer of a hefty payout in order to stay quiet about what she saw, she stated.

“You know this is safe and you are keeping it from people who are sick!” she told her supervisors. They offered her “$20,000 a month” to keep quiet, she stated. “I am not taking your money, and you better worry about what I am going to say!”

The DEA doesn’t appear to worry too much.

Currently Nelson works as a marijuana advocate. The DEA appears neither to be suppressing her or budging from their “cannabis is bad” stance. Due to lack of research, the DEA rejected a petition to move cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act.

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In order to attract more applicants into the police force; police departments are dropping their standards for accepting recruits. They are lowering educational requirements as well as forgiving some prior drug use. In an age where police officers are under intense public scrutiny; where they face the possibility of being killed on the job; have high physical demands and low pay, there has been a decreased interest in joining the force.

“We have a national crisis,” stated Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer and current lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “For the first time in my life, I would say I could never recommend the job. Who’s going to put on a camera, go into urban America where people are going to critique every move you make? You’re going to be demonized.”

The requirements for becoming an officer are determined by each state; there are no national standards. In the past; the prior use of drugs or any criminal activity (however minor) has been sufficient to deny individuals from becoming officers. Not to mention the physical fitness standards required in order to graduate from the academy as well as post-grad background checks that can include a credit-history review.

The hiring of women has been affected by the physical requirements. Other minorities have been affected by educational standards and credit histories. Considering police departments are trying to diversify the force; many are questioning whether the age-old military-style standards are feasible means for attracting officers who are capable of relating to the communities and easing tensions.

A report released last month by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission praised police departments who have changed testing requirements proven to disproportionately disqualify minority candidates.

The report states that individuals from minority communities are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice system as well as lower credit scores; therefore, they are more likely to fail criminal background and credit checks. As per the report, minorities may also have difficulty with written test that do not screen individuals correctly for the skills required to be an officer.

A survey conducted in 2013 by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that approximately 12 percent of the nation’s officers were black and 12 percent were Hispanic. Although these percentages were greater than they were 30 years ago; according to the department, minorities are still underrepresented in many communities.

Most police departments do not hire individuals who admit to having used cannabis during the previous three year period. However; the Baltimore commissioner (where riots took place following the death of a black male during transportation in a police vehicle), is attempting to change these rules calling it “the number one disqualifier for police applicants.”

“I don’t want to hire altar boys to be police officers, necessarily,” Davis told The Baltimore Sun. “I want people of good character, of good moral character, but I want people who have lived a life just like everybody else – a life not unlike the lives of the people who they are going to be interacting with every day.”

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At any given time or place in the United States, at least 137,000 people both men and women are placed behind bars on simple drug possession charges, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.

“Rates of drug use are not down. Drug dependency has not stopped. Every 25 seconds we’re arresting someone for drug use.” Federal numbers on drug arrests and drug use over the past 30 years tell the story.

Drug possession arrests had a major increase, from less than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979 to more than 500 in the mid-2000s. The drug possession rate has since fallen slightly, according to the FBI, hovering now around 400 arrests per 100,000 people. Defenders of harsh penalties for drug possession say they’re necessary to deter people from using drugs and protect the public health. Even though the tough-on-crime push that led to the surge in arrests in recent decades, illicit drug use today is more common among Americans age 12 and older than it was in the early 1980s.

Federal figures show no correlation between drug possession arrests and rates of drug use during that time. The ACLU/Human Rights Watch report shows that arrests for drug possession continue to make up a significant chunk of modern-day police work.

“Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime,” the report finds, citing FBI data.

“More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year.” In fact, law enforcement makes more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined. Black adults were more than two-and-a-half times as likely to be arrested for drug possession.

“Criminalization drives drug use underground; it discourages access to emergency medicine, overdose prevention services, and risk-reducing practices such as syringe exchanges.” The report reinforces its point by noting the lengthy sentences handed down in some states for possession of small amounts of drugs.

“Corey’s story is about the real waste of human lives, let alone taxpayer money, of arrest and incarceration for personal drug use,” lead author Tess Borden stated.

“He could be making money and providing for his family.” However, Ladd’s treatment is far from the cruelest drug possession sentence revealed by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch researchers, who conducted studies of arrest and incarceration data from Florida, New York, and Texas.

“In 2015, more than 78 percent of people sentenced to incarceration for felony drug possession in Texas possessed under a gram,” the report found.

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Police officers throughout the state of California will now have to work a little bit diligently to steal from those who are caught for drug-related crimes.

This past week, Governor Jerry Brown approved a piece of legislation into law (Senate Bill 443) that will require the state’s law enforcement agencies to ensure a conviction against a suspect prior taking over permanent possession of cash, cars, homes and other valuable assets. The law, which was first introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell and Assembly member David Hadley, is intended to stop overzealous policemen from using poor shakedown tactics against the average drug user to make additional revenue.

Law enforcement across California was previously allowed to set claims to money and personal belongings if they had cause to believe those items were used in or obtained through criminal activity. However, the new law takes some of the ridiculousness out of the situation by forcing all civil asset forfeiture cases involving money under $40,000 to end in a person being proven guilty of a crime—before the cops have the authority to keep their cash.

Statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice display that most of the people who have been screwed over by the nation’s civil asset forfeiture laws were busted holding well under the $40,000.

“The new law establishes some of the strongest property rights protections in the most populous state in the nation,” Theshia Naidoo, legal director of criminal justice at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “The reforms are a model not only because of the policy enacted, but also for how the legislative process should work to promote the best interests of Californians.”

A similar law made an effort to be passed just last year, but various branches of law enforcement were adamantly opposed to the language, going as far as to send a letter to members of the General Assembly pleading with them not to place a favorable vote. But, after some extensive negotiations, the state’s leading police organizations finally backed off.

Last year, the Institute for Justice found that California cops used the federal civil asset forfeiture law to rake in around $696 million between 2000 and 2013—around $50 million per year. A 2013 report from the Drug Policy Alliance shows the average cash seizure in California is roughly $5,100.

The new law, which is has been planned to take effect at the start of 2017, will still allow law enforcement to keep the cash of drug dealers caught in possession of over the $40,000 limit. Its primary focus is to prevent those people in a low-income bracket from losing everything they own as a result of a minor drug offense.

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Being apprehended for simple marijuana possession in the United States declined to nearly a 20 year low this past year, taken from new statistics this past Monday by the FBI. The amount of arrests for marijuana possession in 2015 wich is 574,641 – is as low as its ever been since 1996. It reflects a 7 percent year-over-year decline, and roughly a 25 percent drop from the peak of close to 800,000 marijuana possession arrests back in 2007.

The FBI data implies that in the aggregate, law enforcement officers are dedicating less time to marijuana enforcement in comparison to other drugs that need more attention from law enforcement. In 2010 the sale of cannabis along with possession collectively accounted for slightly more than half of all drug arrests.

By 2015, that number had dropped to 43 percent. By contrast, the numbers display that law enforcement has been making more arrests for cocaine and heroin, and other various non-narcotic drugs. Still, the marijuana possession arrest rate works out to more than one arrest every minute.

Supporters of drug policy reform have long analyzed the high rate of marijuana apprehensions from encountering law enforcement has looked upon as misplaced criminal justice priorities.

The Drug Policy Alliance calls marijuana arrests “The engine driving the U.S. war on drugs” and says that “The huge number of marijuana arrests every year usurps scarce law enforcement, criminal justice, and treatment resources at an enormous cost to taxpayers.” A widely-cited 2013 ACLU document estimated that the total cost to taxpayers of marijuana possession enforcement in the U.S. was $3.6 billion.

It also discovered that while opposite races and genders use marijuana at similar rates, black users were four times more likely than whites to be arrested for it, which I disagree with seeing how many races and ethnicities get caught every day with it. Opponents of lax marijuana laws highlight that very few people – were talking less than 1 percent of state inmates – truly serve prison time for marijuana possession.

The majority of people arrested for marijuana use are held in jail for at least a day and receive a criminal record that can impact their employment, according to a Drug Policy Alliance report from earlier this year. Law enforcement in Charlotte, North Carolina state they confronted Keith Lamont Scott earlier this month after allegedly observing him in a car with a suspected marijuana blunt and a handgun and even though the suspect had a firearm and marijuana in his possession, to fatally shoot someone before exercising proper apprehension tactics to give what we Americans call due process and a right to fair trial, in my opinion, is just absurd.

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Canada has been very progressive when it comes to legalizing marijuana. They have legalized it medically, and the current leading platform is extremely open to legalizing recreational marijuana next year. It is expected that cannabis is going to be completely legalized in the state within the next few years, if not sooner, but medical cannabis use is becoming very popular among an unlikely audience: Police officers

Canada’s police force is increasingly accepting and using medical marijuana. For about a year now, the amount of active and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who were reimbursed for their cannabis prescriptions have gone up by more than a hundred percent. Government documents from a Montreal news outlet states that Forty-seven police officers had their prescriptions covered by the insurance for people who have suffered injuries while on the job. The total cost for medical marijuana ended up being about $272,000.

During 2014, twenty officers were reimbursed under the plan for just $64,000. In 2013, the total cost of medical marijuana was just $8,000. There has been significant growth thanks to Canada’s progressive stance on the issue. 5,200 out of 28,461 members of the police force are under medical marijuana. Although marijuana is going to be legalized recreationally soon, people still say that law enforcements using marijuana are not a good thing. The controversy of the subject hit its peak when an officer was filmed smoking medical marijuana to raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among officers was forced to retire.

“I’m trying to draw attention to the fact that the RCMP fails to have a program in place for proper PTSD screening for their members and proper information for their families,” Cpl. Ron Francis, who served with the force for more than 20 years and suffered from PTSD, said in an interview.

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Last week, the Michigan State Police held a press conference. There, they explained why they chose to infiltrate ten cannabis dispensaries in just one day in March, stating that there were illegal sales to those who do not deserve it and other illegal actions under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. However, instead of giving police more of a chance to attack other dispensaries, this could actually stop police from infiltrating others, police say.
“Our focus is to stop the drug traffickers who are operating illegally under the guise and umbrella of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act and providing marijuana to those who are not eligible, or not their patients, or in excess of the amounts they are authorized to have,” Derrick Carroll, Michigan State Police Lieutenant, said to reporters at the press conference.
Small violations at the dispensaries in the small Otsego County town include illegal cash transactions, sales to customers who are ineligible, and the sale of banned products such as oil and wax. However, the most important part of proponents working in medical cannabis in Michigan, Lieutenant Carroll stated that dispensaries are “not supposed to be charging for marijuana,” and that the payments in medical cannabis across the state are what motivated the police forces to intervene.
In 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that medical cannabis sales are allowed. However, they are only allowed from a registered doctor to their five registered patients. People are looking for a change to this decision.
“Today Michigan’s highest Court clarified that this law is narrowly focused on helping the seriously ill, not an open door to unrestricted retail marijuana sales,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said. “Dispensaries will have to close their doors. Sales or transfers between patients or between caregivers and patients other than their own are not permitted under the Medical Marijuana Act.

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