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Oregon: Millions to Fight Drugs; Rapists Run Rampant

Russ Belville

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Yesterday I recalled the horrific 911 call from August 2012  where a woman in Southern Oregon called 911 on a Saturday morning to report her abusive ex-boyfriend was breaking in to her home. The 911 operator was forced to tell the terrified woman there were no sheriffs to send to her rescue because of federal budget cuts. The ex-boyfriend then went on to rape and choke the woman.

I brought the story back to highlight how the Oregon Sheriffs Association just donated $100,000 to the No on 91 Campaign to fight against our initiative to legalize marijuana, asking why there’s so much money to fight marijuana legalization, but not to protect women from rape on the weekends. It turns out that it is partially because the federal government gives 25% more grant money to Oregon to fight drugs than to catch rapists and protect women, and losing easy marijuana arrests and citations makes that grant money harder to get.

According to the Oregon Statewide Single Audit Report for FY 2012, the feds granted $902,604 to Oregon law enforcement through The Edward Byrne Memorial Competitive Grant Program. This grant was established by the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which created the Drug Czar’s office and was championed by then-Senator Joe Biden. As a National Institute of Justice report explained:

[T]he Byrne Program emphasizes drug-related crime, violent crime, and serious offenders. It encourages multijurisdictional and multi-State efforts to support national drug control policies.

The formula grant program makes funds available to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system and to enforce State and local laws related to substance abuse.

The “competitive” part of the Byrne Grants process is that the grants are often tied to state and local arrest statistics, which encourage police to go after easy-to-catch low-level drug offenders rather than hard-to-prosecute drug kingpins. Perhaps this is why the Oregon State Police refers to actual arrests for marijuana as well as decriminalization citations for marijuana all together as “arrests” when they submit their statistics to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.

Law enforcement rounding up small-fry drug arrests to qualify for their Byrne Grants is not just some pothead conspiracy theory. In 2008, drug cops didn’t even try to hide their dollars-for-collars mentality when they participated in “Operation Byrne Blitz,” a nationwide campaign to gin up drug arrest statistics as Congress was considering serious budget cuts opposed by law enforcement. This policing for profit rather than safety netted 612 arrests in Florida with an average of 4 ounces of marijuana, 1 marijuana plant, 8 grams of cocaine, 1.5 grams of crack, 1 gram of meth, and $1,900 per arrest. There were 172 arrests in Minnesota, averaging 2 ounces of marijuana, 4 grams of cocaine, 9 grams of meth, and $232 per arrest. In 1999-2000, Byrne Grants helped incentivize police in Texas to fabricate drug evidence in Tulia and Hearndon and subsequent cases were so racially biased and ethically troubled that Texas banned multi-jurisdictional drug task forces by 2008.

In addition to almost a million dollars Oregon receives through the Byrne Grant program, there is also $250,136 from the Assistance to Rural Law Enforcement to Combat and Drugs Competitive Grant Program, $2,870,464 from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program, and $243,763 from the Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program. That’s $4,023,204 in federal money to fight the scourge of drugs.

How much federal money does Oregon receive from the feds to protect women and catch rapists? The largest block of funds comes from the Violence Against Women Grants at $1,993,334. The Sexual Assault Services Formula Program provides another $185,672. Sex Offender Management Grants provide $33,179. Reducing Dating Violence & Sexual Assault on Campus Grants provide $107,638. Reducing Rural Dating Violence & Sexual Assault Grants provide $11,551. Enforcement of Protection Orders Program provides $80,696. Two grants for reducing DNA Backlog (testing rape kits, for instance) provide $358,576 and $150,986. That’s a total of $2,921,632.

So the feds give Oregon over $4 million to catch druggies (54% merely possessing marijuana) and under $3 million to catch rapists. If only that woman in Southern Oregon had some pot in her house, she could’ve gotten the attention of the police.

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