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by Peter Moskos

June 20, 2015

"Police earn court overtime pay while residents get rap sheets. It’s a horrible equilibrium, and police are the fulcrum"

I hear a lot of people with very strong opinions try and tell me and others about a place they've never been and a job they've never worked. I wrote about police the drug corner, places like where Freddie Gray was arrested and died in police custody. The next few posts will be exerts from the chapter in Cop in the Hood called "The Corner: Life on the Streets." It starts with this quote from a Baltimore City police officer:
It’s a different culture. You know, what is normal for us--like going to work, getting married--they don’t understand that. Drugs are normal. Mommy did it. Daddy did it, not that he’s around. But if people want to take drugs, there’s nothing we can do. All we can do is lock them up. But even that is normal.
On "clearing the corner":
[It's] what separates those who have policed from those who haven’t. Some officers want to be feared; others, respected; still others, simply obeyed. An officer explained: “You don’t have to [hit anybody]. Show up to them. Tell them to leave the corner, and then take a walk. Come back, and if they’re still there, don’t ask questions, just call for additional units and a wagon. You can always lock them up for something. You just have to know your laws. There’s loitering, obstruction of a sidewalk, loitering in front of the liquor store, disruptive behavior.” Police assume that if the suspects are dirty, they will walk away rather than risk being stopped and frisked. You can always lock them up for something, but when a police officer pulls up on a known drug corner, legal options are limited.
If a shop is run efficiently, the boss, himself working for or with a midlevel dealer, should be able to sit and observe the operation. By not handling drugs or money, he faces little risk of arrest from uniformed patrol officers. The boss may be sitting on a stoop of a nearby vacant and boarded-up building posted with a “no loitering” sign. Because of the sign, he could be arrested for the very minor charge of loitering, the catch-all arrest charge. But how often can that be done? Repeated arrests for loitering, especially if no drugs are found, could easily result in a complaint about police racism and harassment to Internal Affairs.
Don't worry. It gets better.

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