The drug war wins again

Mayor McFarlane made some good points in her State of the City address yesterday. Raleigh has come together after Officer Twiddy shot Akiel Denkins last week, but the city is not better yet. A mother has lost her son. Two children have lost their father. A cop has taken a life, which is certainly traumatic for him and probably for all of the force. No, on balance, Raleigh will not be better than it would be if this hadn’t happened at all.

This is a tragedy for two families, and it’s a predictable one. A pernicious, malicious force caused this homicide (have I been listening to too much Hamilton?). That force is the drug war. That force is the same one that entraps young black and brown men in jail or leaves them dead in the streets while white men and women go freely about their business. It’s the same force that is brought to bear on city street corners across this country while doctors openly run pill mills and never got shot by the police, though the evidence is good that they’re the root of some of the drug trade’s worst public health effects in decades. I’ve yet to hear that a chipper young drug – sorry, pharmaceutical – rep has been spotted and chased by a cop while she hung around a doctor’s office shilling oxy. Why is that?

The drug war.

The drug war pays the Raleigh police, and all the departments like it, to bring in drugs, dealers, and money. It pays them to jack people up for misdemeanors, or, perhaps, minor felonies, even when those people aren’t violent. Instead of paying cops to develop good information about the violent criminals who terrorize the same neighborhoods that are already suffering, left out of economic progress and opportunity, the drug war pays them to make drug arrests that don’t stick and have never stopped the flow of drugs in any community in this country. Instead of overtime to attend community events in order to build relationships, we pay overtime for court appearances behind arrests that don’t make people safer.

And who suffers the most? The people who do business outside, on the corners, in the streets. Not the doctors pumping white people so full of opiates that they’ll do anything to get more. Not the nice white ladies with prescriptions that could kill a horse. Not the middle-aged hipsters who just love their weed because it makes artisanal doughnuts more delicious, even though they’re well-informed enough to know that they’re hiding behind privilege that protects their little patch of earth from turning into Juarez. Or Chicago. Or Bragg and East.

We all know all of this.

What we need to know is, how much does Raleigh make from the drug war? How much has the city earned from the federal government for seizing drugs and cash? How much does the city get to keep of what it seizes? How much has the city earned in equipment and weaponry that further alienates the police from the people they serve? This is not safe for anyone. Raleigh will not be better for the loss of Akiel Denkins unless it is willing to face that what happened to him was a feature – not a bug – of the capricious, cruel, profligate, and pointless drug war. (Yep, definitely too much Hamilton.)

(This post has been updated.)

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