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Cops as Enforcers for the Rich

Cops as Enforcers for the Rich

In New York City, where 'stop and frisk' was enacted under the guise of protecting the poor communities, the result has been civil rights complaints and anger toward cops

Serving, Protecting or Keeping the Poor in Line?

Treating citizens as ATM machines



Citizens protesting murders by police and the murders of Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers have exposed an ugly side of America. The wealthy across this country are out of touch with reality. They care more about Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian feuding than they care about their country. The rich look at the poor and wonder, “Why are those people so mad?”

Why, indeed?

In Santa Barbara, Calif., playground of wealthy movie stars, police are searching for homeless people. Merchants and wealthy residents don’t want them living in Santa Barbara. To appease the wealthy, Santa Barbara police enforce laws directed at the homeless at one of the highest levels in the nation, according to FBI statistics. Police in Santa Barbara are used as enforcers against the poor, at the behest of the rich.

Not long ago, Albuquerque city leaders told police officers to “take the gloves off” when dealing with people feeding the hungry – to appease area merchants. APD recently did a reverse drug sting in a poor part of town, arresting six homeless people and recouping $30. Drugs are everywhere, but APD targets only poor users, not the rich addicts.

In Ferguson, Mo., population 21,000, authorities issued 33,000 arrest warrants, mostly for minor infractions. Ferguson is poor and predominately Black. What crime have these residents committed? Jay walking is the No. 1 ticket issued in Ferguson. That and other minor offenses gain these citizens membership in the criminal justice gulag, where the life is drained out of them.

Once in this web, the court system never releases them. If these people have a job, it pays very little, so often they have to decide whether to pay a fine or eat. If they decide to eat, then they get more warrants out for their arrest for not paying their fine.

It’s a cycle that pits poor residents against police officers. The laws are bad, but the cops enforce them well because their funding depends on it.

In Gretna, La., the Gretna Police Department made 6,566 arrests in a community of 18,000, according to the FBI. Gretna is another poor town, where the residents are Black. Are they wrong to believe the police are being used as enforcers by the rich and powerful to pad city coffers and keep the poor in line? Just like Ferguson, when the Gretna court system gets its hands on a poor person, it will choke every last penny out of them. Rightfully, the poor ask why the rich aren’t treated the same way.

In New York City, where “stop and frisk” was enacted under the guise of protecting the poor communities, the result has been civil rights complaints and anger toward cops. NYPD doesn’t stop and frisk on Wall Street. It doesn’t happen in the Hamptons. The rich are directing a war against poor neighborhoods. They say it is to keep the peace, but in actuality, it’s to keep the poor in line.

Nationwide, child sex workers, children, are being arrested and prosecuted. A child prostitute is a victim, not a criminal, but that’s not how the laws are written and enforced.

American citizens are in need of food assistance at levels not seen since the Depression. Yet the wealthy in this country are purposely out of touch with this reality of starvation.

I am reminded of the coal and steel strikes of the turn of the 20th century when the leaders of police and National Guardsmen were bought off by the rich and powerful – the coal mine and steel mill owners. It led to open warfare in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and along the Rockies by poor miners against the authorities. In some cases, it was halted only when President Teddy Roosevelt ordered in federal troops.

American law enforcement leaders must start saying NO to the powerful in their communities.

They have allowed the rich to use police officers as enforcers against other citizens whose only crime is that of being poor. The wealthy don’t want their “Twitter” world upset by having to deal with poor people. Police chiefs must refuse to enforce laws strictly aimed at the poor.

When chiefs of police and sheriffs stop using their officers for every problem a politician sees, and instead demand that business and political leaders and the wealthy start fixing communities, this country will change for the better.

Police officers serve all of us, not just the powerful. Communities must start funding their police departments and courts through taxes, not through fees and fines stacked against those who can’t afford them.

America doesn’t have bad police officers. What we have are very bad laws being enforced very well.

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him through Facebook.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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