by Radley Balko

“Arresting people for assaults, beatings and robberies doesn’t bring money back to police departments, but drug cases do in a couple of ways.  First, police departments across the country compete for a pool of federal anti-drug grants.  The more arrests and drug seizures a department can claim, the stronger its application for those grants.

‘The availability of huge federal anti-drug grants incentivizes departments to pay for SWAT team armor and weapons, and leads our police officers to abandon real crime victims in our communities in favor of ratcheting up their drug arrest stats,’ said former Los Angeles Deputy Chief of Police Stephen Downing.

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Earlier this year, Nashville’s News 5 ran a report on how police in Tennessee are pulling over suspected drug dealers and seizing their cash along I-40, often without bothering to make an arrest.  The station combed through police reports showing that officers spent 10 times as long policing the side of the interstate where a drug runner would be leaving after he sold his supply — and thus would be flush with sizable amounts of cash — than on the side where he was likely to be flush with drugs.  The police were letting the drugs be sold in order to get their hands on the cash.”

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