Chicago Cops Get Their Priorities Wrong

By Tony O'Neill 11/28/11

The case of a young woman who was targeted by a SWAT team after marijuana allegations—but received no police help when she was assaulted—is instructive.

thefix_swat team.jpg
Is marijuana ever worth this? Photo via

The overenthusiasm of the police for busting pot smokers—compared to their relative unwillingness to tackle violent crime—is highlighted by a bleak Huffington Post article. It tells the story of Jessica Shaver, a young woman in Chicago. When a thug viciously beat her outside a bar, cops were reluctant to investigate, leaving her to track down the perpetrator herself. But the police still didn’t act; not until Chicago Alderman and Time Out Chicago reporter Joe Marino took up her cause did they reluctantly do their job. The Chicago PD showed much more enthusiasm back in April, when a SWAT team busted down Shaver's door with a battering ram and ripped her apartment apart searching for marijuana. She recalls: "It wasn't clear to us that they were cops at all. I had a flashback to my attack. I was just terrified. I peed myself...My [dog] ran off, and I was afraid they were going to shoot it. I asked if I could get it, and they said, 'We don't give a fuck about your dog.'" The raid resulted in no charges being filed. 

Sadly, such disproportionate police action is nothing new. The policy of “asset foreclosure” gives cops a real incentive to focus on suspected drug users, rather than violent criminals: cold hard cash. Under current laws, if the cops even suspect that you've made money from drugs they can seize your car, your cash—even your home. The money goes straight back to the police department. Even if there's not enough evidence to charge you, you still have to go to court and prove you own your property legitimately, a process that can cost more than the property's worth. Way to incentivize the wrong priorities.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Tony O'Neill_0.jpg

Tony O'Neill, a regular contributor to The Fix, is the author of several novels, including Digging the VeinDown and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie). He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. You can follow Tony on Twitter.