The Bottom Line: Programs and policies doesn't change laws and opens opportunities for favoritism
Despite some unfortunate experiences with some local police departments in the past, I have long been a supporter of law enforcement and NO ONE is more appreciative of what the majority of our front line officers than Dennis McCaslin or Today in Fort Smith.
We spend hours each week posting mugshots of those arrested, warrant information for of those that need to be arrested and information on those who absconded after they were arrested by failing to report to their probation officers.
We write pertinent stories on major arrests. We post sex offenders and non-compliant We feature most wanted individuals from local communities and counties. We feature FBI, DEA, ICE, and Crimes Against Children wanted individuals.
NO other media outlet does more to keep the public informed about criminal activity. Contrary to popular belief, we don't do it to "get into people's business" or to "put anyone on blast".
We do it because it's public information and the public has a right to know. The right to know if their neighbor is a thief, a wife-beater or a drug dealer. Or, at worst, a sex offender or a pedophile.
We have heard the criticism. That we're somehow "benefitting" from the troubles and hard luck of others. To that I challenge anyone of you bleeding hearts to work eighteen hours a day reporting PUBLIC INFORMATION for the small amount of revenue our advertising generates.
At one point this summer, I calculated I was making .37 cents an hour after everything was said and done.
Hell, the local television stations news departments should be writing me a check, because their 5 p.m. news report on Monday generally consists of the stories we published on Sunday. There was a prime example of that today.
One of your "local" stations reported two stories at 6 p.m. that they didn't know a damn thing about until they read about them on Today in Fort Smith. Because we do the work. Then stragglers roll up their sleeves and claim all the glory.
Bu that is neither here nor there. I took the long route to get to my topic.
The Fort Smith Police Department announced a new program today that essentially puts the decision whether or not to make an arrest of someone breaking the law
at the discretion of the responding officer.
Let me say that again. For a variety of offenses that ARE against the law, an officer can choose to send the offender into a program designed to "reduce the recidivism rate" of certain misdemeanor crimes.
This is not a can of worms. This is a bucket they are taking the lid off of. I thought the police were supposed to serve and protect. Not pick and chose.
Sadly, despite my admiration of police officers in general, I was reminded again today that there are also some corrupt individuals involved in local law enforcement that adhere to the philosophy that the law only applies to everyone else. And not them.
Now, you have this program in place that will allow an officer to pick and choose who he wants to arrest. To be honest with you, it's not much different than the policy that has been in place forever (wink, wink) but now the "good ol' boy" treatment just got the green light.
Once again, I was reminded today that there are individuals in law enforcement who are actually above the law. Apparently. Because I see officers who have been "investigated" by internal affairs getting promotions instead of reprimands. In fact, in you like irony, I have a real story I could tell you...
Here's the real bottom line. This new program will have this officer saying criminal mischief IS against the law, while that officer will choose to NOT make an arrest for the same violation. Not only does that punish the officers that try and do the right thing, but it also opens the floodgates for those who (already) serve as judge and jury through their selective enforcement of LAWS as they are on the books.
The crimes in question are possession of marijuana paraphernalia, disorderly conduct, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, misdemeanor criminal trespass, misdemeanor theft of property, misdemeanor criminal mischief, minor in possession, and solicitation of prostitution.
IF the local police department feels those offenses shouldn't be crimes, they maybe they should lobby the state legislature to change the laws. But until then, shouldn't the task of law enforcement be to ENFORCE the law instead of interpret it?
The law is the law. It should apply to kings and paupers accordingly. Why should someone be able to steal from you, walk around with illegal drugs, trespass upon your property or anything else and have an officer that would prefer to skip the paperwork decide if an actual crime was permitted?
I have been the victim of a rogue officer violating my rights and clearly breaking the rules set forth by a local police department. It was duly reported to "internal affairs" and duly ignored and covered up. In fact, the former police chief had a big laugh about it as he threw the complaint in the wastebasket.
Right before he hightailed it down to Georgia.
So...are we going to make this retroactive?
Does everyone in jail get out now if they couldn't make bail on a misdemeanor charge? What about everyone that was convicted of (or railroaded on) a misdemeanor in the past?
Do they get a clean slate since whatever "crime" they committed may or may not be a crime based upon what side of the bed the chief of police got up on this morning?
Better yet...what happens the first time an African American gets handcuffed and taken to jail for the same crime that some white guy gets a pass on? And the officers can now LEGALLY make that determination?
I can see this becoming a cluster in a hurry.
The first time that Tom gets arrested for the same crime Jerry gets a slap on the wrist for, Tom has every right to purse an action in court. In the past, those type of situations have ALREADY been left up to officer discretion.
There have been a TON of drunk drivers "taken home" depending on their name and standing in the community. There have been a myriad of "we can't prove anything" responses when LEO don't want to arrest one of their buddies. There have been crimes that have been ignored--and covered-up--at the discretion of the officers for years.
Now, at least one local agency has cleared the way for that malfeasance (that's right...I said it!) to become part of standard operating procedure.
I'll say one thing.
The year 2020 has been a hell of a ride.