TalkLeft drew attention this evening
to a report in the Dearborn, Michigan, Mail & Guardian of a now-former police officer who confiscated a suspect's marijuana and wound up calling 9-1-1 over it. He and his wife baked some of it into brownies, and then (apparently) freaked out. Officer Edward Sanchez resigned, and the department decided not to press charges, which irritated city councillor Doug Thomas.
TalkLeft's Jeralyn Merritt is glad he wasn't charged:
Yes, it's bad to take a suspect's pot. But I don't think it warrants criminal charges. Disciplinary charges, to be sure, but the cop resigned first. And, in the grand scheme of things, it's better that someone who overdoses on drugs like heroin not to be afraid to seek medical attention. Some things are better confined to the realm of the doctor-patient privilege.
I agree with the overdose prevention angle. In fact, we have a whole category
devoted to that idea on this web site. But I'm not sure how I feel about just having disciplinary action in most cases. It's one thing to slip up, especially when it comes to an activity like drug use that shouldn't be a crime at all. It's another thing to arrest a person, take his drugs (his property), send him to jail
for the drugs and then commit the same crime that you took the first guy to jail for. That makes me wonder about the officer's moral fiber (even though I don't call for sanctions of officers for mere drug use -- because I don't call for such sanctions for anyone).
The Mail & Guardian article did not discuss the fate of the original possessor of the marijuana. I would like to know whether Sanchez arrested him or her, and if so what the outcome was. That said, losing his job is probably enough (even if by resignation), and as I said I agree that 9-1-1 calls over drug overdose scares should not lead to criminal prosecution, for reasons of public health policy.
Update: Mark Hemingway commented on this story guest blogging for The Agitator too. In descending order of harshness toward the officer: Hemingway, me, Merritt.
Another update: Orin Kerr of the Volokh Conspiracy found audio of the 9-1-1- call.