A bad incentive for pot busts

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The Bay Citizen ran, without comment or perspective, a Bay City News item Dec. 23 noting that the Hayward Police Department and other local law-enforcement agencies picked up some $1.2 million when the feds disbursed the money that was seized from a marijuana dispensary that was busted in 2006.

This is a dirty side of the drug war that doesn't get enough discussion or attention: When the cops bust dealers who have cash (or even fancy cars) on hand, the money doesn't go to the general fund of a city or to the federal treasury (to fund, perhaps, alternatives to incarceration, drug treatment or education). It goes directly to the police agencies that made the arrests.

That's a huge incentive -- a direct cash incentive -- for police to focus on arresting drug dealers (in this case, an operation that was selling marijuana, which everyone with any sense knows ought to be legal anyway).

In an era of diminshed resources, if you're a police chief and you have a choice -- send your officers to raid a pot club, or send them onto the streets to try to prevent violent crimes -- there's a financial incentive to go after the pot club. That skews law-enforcement priorities in a bad way.

I'm hardly the first one to make this point, but it's worth thinking about when we see this kind of story celebrating the "true holiday gift" of drug money.

 

Comments

a number of places, the purpose being to incentivize police to secure arrests. Otherwise they get paid the same whether they are out there taking risks or sitting in a donut shop all day.

I'm comfortable with police getting a share of criminal proceeds if (and only if) it reduces the amount of criminal behavior.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

And of course cannibas dispensaries are not criminal behavior.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

Of course, Tim. Enforcement of "morality" has always involved a dirty enforcement side same as the "offenders". Think of vice squads. Always dirtier than the "vice" they're trying to stop.

Posted by DanC on Dec. 23, 2011 @ 7:25 pm