The Daily Gamecock

CPD ought to reevaluate their priorities

Efforts should go to quelling violence

“We will work on finding you.”

This isn’t the opening to Taken, this is a threat made by Interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago, via the official Columbia Police Department Facebook page, to a marijuana legalization advocate.

Over the weekend, the Columbia Police Department completed a drug bust in which eight pounds of marijuana were seized. A brief news release, as well as several photos from the seizure, were posted on the Columbia PD Facebook page. Among several other comments on the post, one legalization advocate suggested that Columbia PD focus their time and effort on decreasing the violence in Five Points, rather than hunting down nonviolent recreational pot users. Santiago tagged the legalization advocate in his response, which read, “We have arrested all of 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.” The post and reply were deleted shortly thereafter, but not before at least one user took a screenshot of them and posted them online. Santiago’s response has caused an uproar, both with those faithful to the First Amendment and other legalization advocates.

The First Amendment violation is extremely egregious, and if allowed to stand, will set a dangerous precedent. The idea that advocating a particular policy change is enough evidence to establish reasonable suspicion is ridiculous — there are plenty of marijuana legalization advocates who aren’t “stoners,” just as there are plenty of minority rights advocates who aren’t minorities and plenty of pro-life advocates who aren’t fetuses.

This whole incident is indicative of the entire “War on Drugs.” As the original poster pointed out, police are forced to spend their time, money and effort chasing down nonviolent drug users instead of using those resources doing their proper job — protecting people from those who would do them harm. Apparently our police chief also thinks it’s a good use of our tax dollars to hunt down people critical of his practices.

Monday’s Crime Blotter in this paper included what I must assume is the first ever nonviolent assault, since Columbia PD has “arrested all of the violent offenders in Five Points.” There were also 5 larcenies, 2 vandalisms/destructions of property, an indecent exposure, and an ATM fraud. All of those are crimes with victims — victims whose lives have been impacted by crime. Ideally, Columbia police would be proactive and try to stop these crimes from happening in the first place. Now that it’s too late for that, I’d at least hope that they would invest their capital into apprehending those responsible so that the victims can move on with their lives.

Apparently advocating on Facebook that Columbia police protect and serve innocent people rather than harass and threaten stoners is enough for them to try and hunt you down. I wonder what doing the same in a newspaper with thousands of readers will get them to do?