Yesterday a police chief in South Carolina thoughtfully reminded us of what police think of us and our "rights" and our "viewpoints."
CPD SEIZES APPROXIMATELY $40K WORTH OF MARIJAUNA FROM HOME
Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago announces the arrest of a man accused of having approximately $40K of marijuana inside a Columbia apartment.
Not everybody on Facebook was a fan. Chief Santiago pushed right back against criticism:
In case you can't see that image, a guy named Bradley says "Maybe u should arrest the people shooting people in 5 points instead of worrying about a stoner that's not bothering anyone. It'll be legal here one day anyway." Someone using the Columbia Police Department Facebook account replies:
@Brandon whitmer, we have arrested all the violent offenders in Five points. Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal, we will work on finding you.
Now, you're probably thinking this is some web-lackey shooting his mouth off, not the position of the Columbia, South Carolina Police Department, or the position of Interim Chief Ruben Santiago. Well, if that's the case, the web lackey was willing to double down upon being criticized:
In case you can't see that image, the comment says this:
This is Interim Chief Santiago posting. I was just notified that one of my staff members deleted my post. I put everyone on notice that if you advocate for the use of illegal substances in the City of Columbia then it's reasonable to believe that you MIGHT also be involved in that particular activity, threat? [sic] Why would someone feel threaten [sic] if you are not doing anything wrong? Apply the same concept to gang activity or gang members. You can have gang tattoos and advocate that life style, but that only makes me suspicious of them, I can't do anything until they commit a crime. So feel free to express yourself, and I will continue to express myself and what we stand for. I am always open to hearing how our citizens feel like we can be effective in fighting crime.
I have written the Columbia Police Department's Public Information Officer for comment about whether that was, in fact, Interim Chief Santiago, and whether his views represent the views of the department.
So: if that is Chief Santiago, the police chief of a city of about 125,000 people, thinks that his department should "find you" and investigate you if you support the legalization of marijuana or oppose the ruinous, amoral War on Drugs. Notice the collection of cop tropes in the second response: (1) the thug's dance of first threatening to "find you" and then halfway backing off from it, (2) the "why worry if you have nothing to hide" routine, (3) the suggestion that advocating against the War on Drugs creates reasonable suspicion to investigate you — bearing in mind that "reasonable suspicion" is a legal term referring to the quantum of proof that supports cops, for instance, stopping and frisking you, and (4) the statement that the cops are always open to hearing from citizens after threatening to come find a citizen for criticizing them.
Interim Chief Santiago seems mad. And why shouldn't he? Commenter Brandon wants to take bread out of his mouth. The Glorious War on Drugs helps people of modest ability like Ruben Santiago find employment. It provides massive funding. It provides cops with fun toys, like tanks. It allows them to use violence against citizens with a high degree of confidence they will get away with it. And you want to take that away from them? Of course they're going to "work on finding you."
This shouldn't be a surprise. We already know that police think that it's evidence of criminal intent justifying a search warrant if you talk about your constitutional rights. Why wouldn't it also be evidence of a crime that you exercise your right to free speech to oppose government policies?
Ruben Santiago may wish to become the permanent Chief of Police of Columbia, South Carolina rather than just the Interim Chief. Will city leaders consider, in evaluating his application, that he is apparently someone who is easily agitated and unprofessional on social media in a way that may be used as evidence in civil rights lawsuits against the city?
Santiago, by the way, has filed a defamation lawsuit against a police captain who accused him of a scheme to plant evidence.
Rutherford [Santiago's lawyer] says Santiago is determined to clear his name and filing a defamation lawsuit is the only way to do that.
"The only thing left for Chief Santiago to do is this; is to file a lawsuit to make sure everybody knows this is not something he's going to let pass by, this is not something he's going to let it go," said Rutherford. "He's very serious about protecting his reputation and the reputation of the city of Columbia Police Department"
Protip: threatening to "come find" citizens who criticize the War on Drugs and advocate marijuana legalization, and suggesting that their political views give you "reasonable suspicion" against them, is not the optimal way to protect your reputation or the reputation of the department.
Thanks to tipster Jim for the links.
Edited to add: I've also written Interim Chief Santiago's lawyer seeking comment.
UPDATE WITH CONFIRMATION: I received the following statement from the Columbia, SC Police Department's Public Information Officer:
Chief Santiago did write those two posts. I believe the original comment was misconstrued. I appreciate you reaching out to CPD.
Chief was trying to say that he puts would-be-criminals on notice — if you commit a crime or plan to commit one, CPD will work hard to investigate and press charges according to the law.
It’s easy for social media posts to be misunderstood. The man who was so-called threatened openly admitted that he was not offended and appreciated the work of CPD.
Maybe now that the man said that they won't try to go "find" him.
- At this point I must ritually confess that as a young prosecutor I once put people in jail for marijuana distribution. It was the wrong thing to do. I should have known better at the time. The fact that I was very young is not a good excuse. I regret it. In fact I am ashamed of it. ▲
- The thread even drew attention from conservative pundit Todd Kincannon, who denounced the Chief's unconstitutional views. So congratulations, Chief: you're so far around the bend you even repulse someone whose hobby is fantasizing (or trolling) about transsexuals being put in concentration camps. ▲
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017