ACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.
I hear tell the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department and County Board of Commissioners have been wrestling with an issue of seeking a millage request in next year’s primary election in order to get more officers on the road.
I support the effort for more officers, in exchange for a reallocation of enforcement priorities to save money and increase efficiency in the administration of law enforcement in this county.
Some county officials have said that a mill or a half-mill levy is necessary to bring up the levels of staffing. We’ve been told that the situation recently was so dire that while three drunken drivers were being handled and taken to jail, there were only two officers available for duty in the county at that time. Indeed, a troubling and dangerous challenge.
Yet County Commissioner Gale Dugan this month told the Hopkins and Watson Township Boards he instead would like to see the county seek an override of the Headlee Amendment, which has whittled down tax revenue slowly but surely over nearly four decades. Dugan said restoring the original millage would result in as much as $4.8 million in the county’s coffers, which then could be applied to law enforcement-related services such as the prosecutor’s office, the jail and the courts.
The problem with Dugan’s idea is that voters historically haven’t been supportive of such overrides. Just ask local school officials and some townships. There is a valid perception that when voters don’t understand a proposal or it’s too complicated to explain, they vote “no.”
Regardless, I support spending more of my tax money on public safety if police officers and their superiors are willing to reorder their priorities in enforcement. I sincerely believe taxpayers pay far too much to incarcerate non-violent potheads and officers waste too much time and money on busting people who use marijuana.
The War on Drugs, initiated by Richard Nixon in 1971 and ramped up by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, has been an abject failure over its 46 years of miserable life. The United States, touted as the Land of the Free, has more people languishing in its jails and prisons than any other country on the planet, in both sheer numbers and per capita statistics.
The cost of incarcerating wrongdoers is at least $30,000 per inmate per year.
I have absolutely no problem with locking up people who are dangers to law-abiding citizens, people who murder, people who rob, people who make others miserable by use of violence. I also have no problem with throwing peddlers of meth, cocaine, heroin and opioids and the like into the slammer. That’s what prisons are for.
But we’ve expanded the numbers of people to include those who are perhaps being naughty, but not really harming anyone else.
I’d like to see the Allegan County Sheriff’s Department, Michigan State Police and local police make busting pot users a low priority. Obviously, if they using while operating a motor vehicle, they should be regarded the same as a drunken driver. But if they’re not endangering anyone, let ’em be. It’ll save the officers time and the public money.
If authorities don’t, it may be done for them in the 2018 election, during which Michigan voters will decide on a question to legalize weed and regulate it just like alcohol. So it might be a good time to be proactive.
I would vote for spending more money for more officers. I just want them to concentrate more on real problems and public safety.
“Smokin’ marijuana is more fun than drinkin’ beer, but a friend of mine was captured and they gave him 30 years.” — Phil Ochs, 1968, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends.”