Earlier this year, I got arrested for a half gram of marijuana — not even a joint's worth. All I wanted was some McDonald's, but I never even made it to the car.
My friend and I were standing in my front yard on Moreland Avenue in East Atlanta. I was two steps away from my driveway. Before I even knew what was happening, my friend and I had a spotlight on us and were being ordered not to move. Two more units were on the way. My friend and I were both handcuffed and, by my estimation, illegally searched. (My friend told the officer that he couldn't search us without probable cause, but no luck.) I admit, I had some weed on me.
We were all saddled up and ready to go to jail when a crackhead walked up to the patrol car and told the officer there were outstanding warrants for his arrest and he'd like to be placed into custody. The officer demanded that he back away. He then stepped out of the car, took the guy's I.D. and called it in. Dispatch confirmed multiple warrants. The officer gave the man his I.D. back and drove off.
At that moment, I was thinking, "Why take us in and leave a man with warrants?" The only thing I could come up with was the money. How would the crackhead pay his fines? Who would bail him out of jail? I then came to the conclusion that not only was I racially profiled in my own front yard — depressing enough news on its own — but that my friend and I had just been shaken down by the city of Atlanta.
The verdict: a $750 fine and $250 for D.U.I. school (even though we weren't in a vehicle). We also got a year of probation. All this police work for such a tiny amount of pot — while people like Atlanta musician Billy Fields get shot in the face. Thankfully, he is alive to tell the story. I also know of someone else who was raped in a home invasion a few weeks back. The suspects are still at large.
Is Atlanta's police department here to protect and serve, or merely to intimidate and collect revenue from us? Is its presence meant for our own good, or does the department merely exist for the benefit of city government? I always thought jail was a place for serious and violent offenses. The truth is, you can go to jail for almost anything — including being a minority hanging out in your front yard.
I'm not claiming all cops are here to screw you, but some initiatives and protocols really should be revised. Time and resources spent on petty infractions should be diverted to the hunt for those who do serious harm. Good guys — even ones with a little weed in their pocket — don't belong behind bars.