The Washington Post is reporting what criminal defense lawyers have known for some time – cops have arrest quotas to make.
Arlington Virginia’s top cop, Chief M. Douglas Scott, has admitted that his department has issued internal memos which direct cops to make a minimum number of arrests each month. Arlington is not alone. Cops in DC and Maryland, both state and federal, have their performance evaluated on number of arrests.
And where do these cops get their arrests? How are they able to make their numbers every month? Well, violent crime is down over 50% since it peaked in the 1990’s. That leaves DUI and marijuana as the go-to sources of arrests.
Most veteran cops have their spots selected for easy arrests. It may be the parking lot of bar at closing, or a favorite speed trap. DUI roadblocks always score some hits.
The scenic Potomac overlooks on the George Washington Parkway are like fishing in a barrel for U.S. Park Police. Seems like motorists like to smoke some pot and enjoy the view – that is until they end up in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Marijuana is the go-to crime for cops seeking to make their numbers because of its tell-tale smell. Burnt or raw, the smell of marijuana can give a cop probable cause to search, with an arrest as the likely result.
While marijuana arrests allow cops to keep their jobs (along with prosecutors, probation officers, prison guards and defense lawyers) those arrested often lose their job, scholarship, and even citizenship.
What would happen if possession of marijuana was decriminalized? It has been in Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and 12 other states. There, instead of a criminal arrest, possession of marijuana is treated as a civil infraction. Great idea, but how can the cops make their numbers?
Well, in Massachusetts, for example, possession of marijuana is a civil infraction carrying a $2,000 fine. Sounds like a great addition to the quota system. But this time, instead of wasting tax payer dollars arresting and criminally charging marijuana smokers, the quota can be used to raise some needed revenue at $2K a pop.