Saturday, August 19, 2006

Arrest or Hall Pass?

From Wikipedia -
An arrest is the action of the police, or person acting under the color of law, to take a person into custody so that they may be forthcoming to answer for the commission of a crime. In many legal systems, an arrest requires mere verbal information to persons that they are under arrest; the laying of hands or restraints upon the arrested person is usually not required to affect an arrest. Also, there are certain non-criminal arrests that allow for the seizure of representatives not present in the legislative body lacking a quorum, and the forfeiture of property.

For serious crimes, the police typically take suspects to a police station or a jail where they will be incarcerated pending a judicial bail determination or an arraignment. In other instances, the police may issue a notice to appear specifying where a suspect is to appear for his arraignment.

While an arrest will not necessarily lead to a state sanction such as imprisonment, the arrest itself may have serious ramifications, such as a loss of a job due to inability to pay bail, loss of public housing, and social stigma. Such effects are termed the collateral consequences of criminal charges.

I keep seeing these "beer sting" stories on the news where the headline says N store clerks Arrested! Uh, not quite, they were cited. It sounds like we're being tough on crime, but not really. What has really happened is we issued a "hall pass" to the clerks. I've worked these "stings" and we made "arrests" every time. That should tell someone that what we are doing is not effective. If we keep going back to the same places, and making arrests, we are not changing behavior. Isn't that the goal - to change behavior?

I have never liked the idea of issuing misdemeanor citations. I've always felt misdemeanor citations facilitated crime, rather than curtailed it. Think about a shoplifter who gets a misdemeanor citation. How does the shoplifter perceive the situation? How about, "wow - I'm glad I didn't have to go to jail. Now I can go to the next store and try to be a little smarter. Maybe I won't get busted again." The signal that is sent to the perpetrator is there is no penalty for wrongdoing and the signal sent to the store owner is the cops aren't going to help you.

Under the current system, the person who receives a citation agrees to come in at a later date and be "processed". Consider that this person has already committed a crime and now the "system" is going to trust them to show up at a later date to have their fingerprints taken. Yeah right. That may be one reason we currently have over 2000 warrants for "Failure to Appear for Booking/Processing". These honorable citizens have played the system once again.

Another problem with issuing these citations is that we are turning people loose who may have warrants from other jurisdictions. Until we positively identify a person, we don't really know who we have. The only "positive identification", I believe, is 10 fingers on the fingerprint cards and a little trip to the AFIS machine.

For that reason, I believe law enforcement should cease issuing misdemeanor citations, and instead transport the offenders immediately to a processing station. This would achieve several things if the strategy were adopted. Here are a few:

1. It would inconvenience the perpetrator, which is a small psychological deterrent.
2. It would demonstrate to businesses that the system is doing something.
3. A first offender would get the benefit of having handcuffs placed on them and getting to see the city from the back of a squad car - more applied psychology.
4. We would no longer have warrants on people who don't show up. (we actually get two warrants on these cases because a warrant is issued on the original charge and also for failure to appear)
5. We would capture many fleeing felons from other jurisdictions because we would know, positively who we were dealing with.
6. The community would benefit, because long term, crooks would understand that we are serious.

For those who are issued the citation, once we process them, if they have no other warrants, they would be free to go. That is another benefit of transporting them downtown - they would have to get a ride home!

The immediate processing of misdemeanants would be a cost saving move which would also send a strong signal to would be criminals - commit a misdemeanor - take a ride!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like it. Why don't the police do this now? I know the law says the officers have to issue the citations unless they have a reason not to. It seems that taking them to be identified, processed and released would be a good plan