KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says police focus too much time and effort pursuing drug cases with no clear connection to violent crime.
The prosecutor presented data to police commissioners Tuesday which show that more often than not, when police make a drug bust, the person taken into custody is unlikely to be a violent criminal or a would-be murderer.
Many in law enforcement believe that if they go after the drug trade, they can reduce violence in the community.
Peters Baker says the data does not support that in Jackson County.
She says when police set up drug buy-bust sting operations, they are more likely to be in black neighborhoods, and more likely to result in non-violent offender arrests, which creates distrust of police in the neighborhood.
“I want to take cases that protect my community,” Peters Baker said. “I want to take cases that protect my community, ok? I will say it again. I want to take cases that protect my community. And when you bring me cases that have no discernible link to violence, it could actually cause harm, especially if you are only enforcing those in particular neighborhoods.”
At least one police commissioner was concerned that this means the prosecutor is not going to file charges on any drug crimes anymore.
Peters Baker says that is not the case.
She says some drug cases do lead to violent crime and many drug houses are disruptive to the surrounding neighborhoods.
She says she will continue to bring charges in those situations.
But Peters Baker claims current enforcement is not discouraging drug trafficking and crimes related to drugs.
She says substance abusers don’t get treatment quickly enough.
She wants police and prosecutors to focus on reducing violence and be fair in the way they conduct enforcement.