By Amy Alkon
shared this story
from Advice Goddess Blog.
The Drug War Is A Cash Cow For Police
Minnesota state Rep. Carly Melin, who sponsored a medical marijuana bill, found that policing agencies are hooked on drug enforcement dollars, writes Mike Mosedale at PoliticsInMinnesota:
According to Melin, Dennis Flaherty, the executive director of the MPPOA (Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association), explicitly told her that he was worried that legalization — in any form — could lead to harmful reductions in the federal grants that are an important funding source for many police agencies.
…Nationally, the U.S. Department of Justice distributes between $300 million and $500 million annually through a program called the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.
Byrne grants are especially critical to the operations of inter-agency drug task forces, which don’t have the same dedicated funding sources as municipal police departments. In 2012, 23 such task forces in Minnesota received a total of approximately $4.2 million from Byrne grants. The money is spent on everything from military-grade hardware to officer overtime.
Critics contend that Byrne grants effectively encourage police to pursue relatively low-level drug offenses, including marijuana possession. Mainly, they say, that’s because the performance measures used in determining awards are based on such factors as numbers of arrests or new task force investigations, with little regard paid to the quality of the arrest or the outcome of the court case.
“The agencies that are successful have to demonstrate a commitment to drug enforcement. The nature of that enforcement is much less important,” said Norm Stamper, a former chief of police in Seattle who now serves on the board of the drug reform advocacy group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “Those who develop a dependency on federal funds such as Byrne grants are likely going to oppose any kind of initiative to legalize anything that’s been a cash cow for them.”