Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Skewed Priorities


There is a disconnect here which should, probably won't, be remedied.

Politico reports that most indviduals arrested for their part in the January 6 Capitol Hill riots will not face felony charges and points out

Another factor prosecutors and judges may weigh is that the treatment of misdemeanors by the justice system is currently the subject of intense attention in criminal justice reform circles. Reformers say such minor charges often cause major complications in the lives of the minority defendants who typically face them.

Former federal prosecutor now law professor Erica

Hashimoto said she recognizes light sentences may be unsatisfying to those outraged by the events on Jan. 6, but jailing the lower-level offenders really won’t help. “I don’t think that will heal any of the hurt and trauma this country has felt,” she said. “They should be focusing on the people who are most culpable.”

Police departments vary among federal, state, and local jurisdictions and even within states. However, it is not only prosecutors and judges who "should be focusing on the people who are most culpable," but also police. In our obsession with racial inequities in application of law enforcement, we often neglect the most obvious failing, the dangerous application of resources on misdemeanor criminal offenses and motor vehicle offenses at the expense of attention paid to major offenses. And so it is that in New Jersey

The Bordentown Township Police Department will be cracking down on distracted driving during the month of April as part of the statewide "UDrive. UText. UPay." enforcement campaign.

Beginning on April 1 and running through the end of the month, the high visibility law enforcement initiative will target motorists who engage in dangerous distracted driving behaviors, such as talking on hand-held cell phones and sending text messages while driving.

Yet in late February we learned

A year of the coronavirus has given rise to what police leaders nationwide call an alarming trend: bored, wayward teenagers pointing guns in people’s faces and carjacking them.

In Chicago, the frequency of the crime more than doubled in 2020 to a rate of about four per day. Three teenagers are charged with murder after a 65-year-old retired firefighter was shot in December during a noontime holdup in a busy shopping district.

New Orleans has seen a similar spike as teenagers know they’re less apt to be punished. “The wheels of justice,” said that city’s top police official, Shaun Ferguson, “just aren’t moving like they did pre-covid.”

In Washington, total carjackings hit 345 in 2020 compared with 142 the year before. Things are only getting worse this year, with 46 carjackings through early February.

The rise in carjackings includes plenty of adult suspects. Experts say the coronavirus has made jobs more scarce and — because people are home all day — made breaking into homes more of a risk. Pandemic reality also applies to juveniles. Schools are closed, and youth programs are shuttered. Precautions against packing children into locked juvenile facilities have led to their quick release, while reductions to in-person contact have made them more difficult to monitor.

Evidently, the pandemic is consequential- until it conflicts with the need to generate revenues. Police, with an alleged mission "to serve and protect," will receive funds to protect the public against "distracted driving," defined as

any activity that diverts attention away from safe driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle and fiiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system.

And it's not only New Jersey, which is merely

one of eight states nationwide to receive dedicated federal funds this year to tackle the issue of driver distraction. This federal funding will be used for police overtime enforcement grants at the local level, as well as a statewide multimedia public awareness campaign on the issue.

Obviously, this isn't the fault of the individual police officers themselves, for they don't set policy nor (for the most part) determine the direction of law enforcement.  If local jurisdictions are given free money (via grant) to conduct a program which will enrich municipal coffers- most likely police budgets included- they are unlikely to turn it down.

Individuals who committed felonies at the Capitol on January 6 should be charged with felonies. Resources are better spent on such serious offenses than on many misdemeanors, seizing the money and assets of individuals before conviction, and minor motor vehicle violations. Alternatively, we may have to hope that some of those carjackers are observed drinking coffee while they drive away in a car owned by an individual they've just beaten half to death.



 

 


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