Thursday, September 22, 2005

She's Working for the Sheriff II 

One day my supervisor, a Sergeant, called me into his office. He explained that the police investigators downstairs, who were fighting real crimes like rape, murder, auto theft and bad check writing, as opposed to victimless, bullshit crimes like growing marijuana, were stretched thin and drowning in paperwork. He asked if I would mind helping out with some of their clerical work. The terms of my position restricted me to the narcotics department, so this would mean I would have to get a little creative when I typed up my monthly reports to submit to the federal agency that funded my position, but I was game. Most of the narcotics agents were out in the field or worked odd hours so I was a little lonely in my little office next to Family Court upstairs. I longed for the esprit de corps of working with other people in an office. I was also tired of emerging from my office to see screaming parents and sobbing children entering and leaving family court. The entire floor seemed poisoned by this miasma of hate and rancor, and since this was the rural South, I feared gunplay. I was also becoming disillusioned with Narcotics. It sickened me to hear the desperate tone of people diming out their friends and families in an effort to save their own skin. No omerta existed among these small time non-professionals. The part that made me feel the dirtiest still was asset forfeiture.

My sheriff was a scrupulous man and he kept his department and officers honest. Often busts would be multi jurisdictional/agency, however, and each one was entitled to a piece of the forfeited assets. One case involved a pot dealer who was supplied large shipments of marijuana from his brother who lived in Humboldt County, California, a region famous for the quality and potency of its marijuana. When he was arrested he had every single piece of his property seized: his children’s Big Wheels, his Charles Schwab retirement accounts and a very expensive fishing boat. I know because I typed up the inventory. The DEA bureau of the nearby city that had participated in the bust wanted the boat, not to sell, but for the agents to use on water patrols, which would primarily be conducted on weekends with coolers of beer and fishing equipment. My Sheriff was outraged by this blatant corruption and refused to surrender the boat. This interagency tug-o-war over a citizen’s property astounded me, as did the catalogs of surveillance equipment arriving daily. A gigantic, powerful industry, one fed by asset forfeiture funds and the current drug laws, was out there. I realized that this industry would lobby and do anything it could to keep marijuana illegal and prevent any sort of reform of our drug laws. Talk about the military/drug/prison/industrial complex. I was eager to separate myself from that machine.

It's good to hear your Sheriff is a person with some scruples. I, myself, would be hard pressed not to pinch the Big Wheels.
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