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Special Monetary Incentive Unit

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
After the arrest of three high-profile basketball players this season, citizens all around Washington have begun to question the roll of local police and the meaning of the words "protect and serve." While many continue to vilify the players, coaches and athletic directors, the circumstances of DeAngelo Casto's arrest have created a sense that something is very wrong in Pullman. Whether you believe drugs should be legal or not, anybody can look at the census statistics and come to a clear conclusion that the rights of students are being aggressively violated in a futile attempt to eradicate marijuana use.

In Casto's case, you have to commend Athletic Director Bill Moos and Head Coach Ken Bone for standing in support of the player, not for Casto's actions, but for the injustice served by the Pullman Police Department. As the story goes, Casto received a citation for misdemeanor possession after an officer spied through his window and saw him rolling a joint. Allegedly, the officer was patrolling off campus in a neighborhood with frequent robberies. After noticing a screen missing from the window, the officer felt warranted to look inside the premises without approval of the home owner.

Since the arrest, Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins reported that a baby was on Casto's lap during the time he was rolling the cigarette. This obviously was a highly irresponsible act, not to be excused. However, the implications of this evidence are completely irrelevant in court due to the unlawful methods used to search the apartment.

Regardless of the officer's blatant disregard for citizen's rights, Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant did nothing in the way of denouncing this form of police work. Instead, he excused the actions in an Associated Press article by blaming the media: "The problem is, the athletes are the ones that make the news; no one cares about the ones in marketing who get busted." However true this may be, it does not account for the reason the officer was on private property in the first place.

The bigger picture is what troubles many about the situation. So far this year, Pullman police have made only 10 fewer arrests than Washington's second largest city - Spokane. This is en route to reaching nearly 60 percent more arrests than in 2010, according to The Spokesman-Review.

Furthermore, last year Pullman police arrested 104 people for misdemeanor possession out of our population of 29,800. In Spokane, the number was 221 for a population of 208,916. In another way of looking at these numbers, Pullman had three times the rate of arrests per capita for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2010.

As expected, Tennant also had justification for these egregious arrest figures.

"Look at the makeup of Pullman," Tennant said. "The vast majority of the population is between 18 and 23, and that age group uses recreational drugs more than other populations."

Although this is mostly accurate, Spokane still has nearly 10,000 more citizens in this demographic than Pullman, according to census data.

These are all the signs of an overzealous police force. Tennant stands by the theory that stopping small crimes will reduce property damage or other violent crimes, but no discernible evidence exists to support this. As many suspect, prohibiting marijuana on College Hill is more about exploiting a revenue stream rather than keeping the populace safe. If everyone received the maximum penalty of $2,000, this would add up to more than $200,000 for 2010 alone ( and remember this is only for misdemeanor marijuana arrests ). Clearly, there is a monetary incentive to harass and incarcerate as many students as possible.

The role and purpose of the police department has lost its way. Currently, nearly all sectors of government are scaling back, and every student at Washington State University is fully aware of the budget cuts. Meanwhile, police work is a continuously booming business, which preys on the immoral activities of otherwise good kids. The power has been abused and rights have been ignored. As for Casto, his defense attorney confidently claims all charges will eventually be dropped due to the unconstitutionality of Pullman PD's search.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Daily Evergreen, The (Washington State U, WA Edu)
Copyright: 2011 WSU Student Publications Board
Contact: opinion@dailyevergreen.com
Website: The Daily Evergreen Online
Details: MAP: Media Directory
Author: Taylor Lutz
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