We learned last week that “New York City reached a settlement with the family of Eric Garner on Monday, agreeing to pay $5.9 million to resolve a wrongful-death claim over his killing by the police on Staten Island last July, the city comptroller and a lawyer for the family said.”
Let’s remember that Mr. Garner was suspected not of something major and serious, such as arson or aggravated assault, or relatively minor but serious for the victim, like stealing a bicycle. No, Mr. Garner was under police suspicion/attention for selling cigarettes without a license. That means without giving the politicians their cut of his sales. You see the politicians take that money, and use it to buy votes so that they don’t have to get a real job, like selling cigarettes.
Mr. Garner was not found to have cigarettes on his person when arrested, so he likely wasn’t selling anything. Well, if you’re going to make an omelette….
When new crimes are discussed in the lawmaking process, those jealous of liberty will often point out that the maximum fines or incarceration times seem excessive for the underlying violation. The response inevitably comes that people really don’t face such extremes, and that those penalties are reserved for particularly egregious cases and the like.
The problem is that good judgement cannot be written into the law and so the police and prosecutors are given enormous discretion in which cases to bring, and what penalties to seek. Resting such power in the hands of government actors sadly leads to too many examples where people are trampled by the system. Whether it’s a girl suspended from school for having Midol without a notarized endorsement in triplicate, or like that of Becky Rehr, arrested and thrown in jail for licensing her dog a few weeks late.
You read that correctly. From Forbes:
Becky Rehr forgot to renew her dog license. It was a careless error that, 26 days later, she corrected. Rehr, in her own words, had “every intention of taking care of it. But with the end of the school year and my job [as a surgical nurse], it just totally got put on the back burner.” She renewed her license four days before county officials sent her a letter alerting her that an arrest warrant had been issued. She then went to the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office to show them that she had her renewed license and was now in compliance with the law. Instead of simply accepting that and wiping out the arrest warrant, or issuing a fine for tardiness, the authorities arrested, frisked, fingerprinted, and detained Rehr with a misdemeanor charge. Her daughter waited in the car for three hours while she was held.
County animal control Director Steve Lawrence told The Associated Press “We prefer not for this stuff to go to court,” “It’s just a $10 license. For some reason, some people like to make it hard for themselves.” That’s the person who has discretion over who is locked up in a cage like a dangerous animal – the kind of person who thinks Becky Rehr likes to make it hard on herself, and for whom putting a person in a cage for want of receipt of a $10 pet tax is just fine.