Monday, July 19, 2010

Burying the Lede

So I'm doing my usual morning news round-up for work, checking out the major papers' headlines and features, and when I get to the LA Times, I come across, "L.A. County sheriff says budget cuts have slowed agency's analysis of drug evidence."

Now, for those who don't share my opinions regarding legalization may read this and just think that Los Angeles needs to get its budgetary house in order (which, of course, it does). But at the end of the story, where many people never manage to reach (such is the fate of most news stories), are these troubling revelations (my emphasis):

Sheriff's officials say cost-saving measures have put them on track to meet their budget-reduction goals — but not without sacrifice. Restrictions on overtime, for example, were shown last month to have significantly slowed fingerprint collection and analysis, often resulting in the destruction of potentially vital evidence.

The lag has delayed dozens of homicide investigations. It's also forced burglary victims to wait longer to have their homes or cars fingerprinted. In May, more than 120 burglary victims decided they couldn't continue preserving the crime scene, calling the Sheriff's Department to cancel fingerprinting altogether.

Cuts have also affected air support, according to Baca's report, with more than 150 requests from patrol units on the ground going unanswered during a two-week span in June.
Clearly, it's more important to spend so much time and resources on consensual exchange and personal drug use than it is to allocate basic services to victims of robbery and murder.

To be fair, some of the drug charges are probably tied to other more serious crimes, but that is not apparent in the thrust of the story, nor would most of those crimes ever be committed if it weren't for drug prohibition enforcement in the first place. What gets me about this story is not simply the police department's priorities, but that the implicit acceptance of those priorities, resulting in the 'oh by the way, murder and burglary cases are growing cold too.' If it was your house that was robbed--and your sense of security shattered--or your loved one dead at the hands of another human being, how would you feel about your case being discarded or delayed to pursue unrelated, non-violent drug busts?

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