Friday, October 06, 2006

Snitch Culture

I just noticed the November Coalition has a web page focusing on "Snitch Culture" with a substantial compilation of articles, reports and other information about criminal informant use and abuse in the justice system. For example, they link to an article that came out in the San Antonio Current while I was on vacation, "Thank you for not snitching." Lots of other good stuff, too, some of which I hadn't seen. Anyone interested in the topic should give it a look. Thanks for the link, guys!

I should also mention that they've got several items from my favorite thinker on the topic, Prof. Alexandra "Sasha" Natapoff of Loyola (CA) University. One key piece of information I noticed missing that the November Coalition might want to add was Prof. Natapoff's sample motion requesting a reliability hearing for informants, which Grits posted and discussed here.

Much of Grits' writing on the subject of snitching is linked at the bottom of this post.


Jason said...

Think there is a coorelation between "no snitching" and situations like this?

800 pound gorilla said...

It's a tough problem and in my book I don't provide easy answers [my drug ed curriculum asks more questions than it answers all through]. Profiting from an immoral social policy is definitely immoral in itself and immoral behaviors lead to personal abuse - both internal and external. Of course I recommend the easy solution: don't get involved with illegal drugs until the legisliars pull their heads out of whereever they keep them. I also warn them that they will not advance their careers or other personal agendas by snitching on others involved in drug trafficking. This is especially true if they snitch with expectations of personal gain. So, if they must, I strongly recommend an anonymous tip. I don't give details but one can glean from my references to false associations that police enforcing these immoral drug laws are likely to assume a greater involvement in wrongdoing.

Actually, I cover this in a workplace situation where coworker, supervisor or owner is involved in trafficking [not that uncommon]. Once you rat out someone in authority, you will be deemed to be unreliable by present and future employers and your advancement will be impaired. And the abysmal record of corporations in regards to whistleblowers is proof positive that it isn't just "criminal gangs" who punish snitches. Just look at the Bush regime and see how they treat snitches.

Anonymous said...

So what do you leftist dopers call a whistleblower?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Jason and anonymous, I've previously elaborated my position on the distinction between "snitching" and "witnessing," here and elsewhere in the links provided.

And yes, Jason, initimidation by thugs could contribute to the situation you link to, though I've no evidence any "stop snitching" movement angle is in play there. More problematic, though, I'd argue: misplaced police deployment priorities are to blame. A lot of time, energy, money and officer attention is spent wasted on things that don't protect the public from the truly dangerous criminals, which is why it's insane that some people want cops to enforce immigration law, too.

Situations like you point to are what cops are for - put some walking the beat around those playgrounds and open air markets and investigate to the Nth degree. Flip whoever you need to, for all I care, to catch the killers. That doesn't change the fact that the processes surrounding what's become the institution of snitching - the ongoing practice that ropes in hundreds of thousands nationally at any one time as government informants - deserves and needs reform. In the Dallas fake drug scandal, in Hearne, TX, in the Cory Maye case and a lot of other instances it's been a source of real abuse.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Actually, now that I think of it, Jason, you were just in New Orleans so you'll appreciate this. What's happening in Houston is that apparently a few NO-based drug rings decided not to go back, set up shop locally and started to compete with yall's local thugs who already controlled the market. The result is not very different from what's happening in Nuevo Laredo, on a smaller scale - various drug rings battling over turf. The only difference: These combatants are all Americans.

Like in Nuevo Laredo, snitching and greater enforcement can't stop the drug trade because too much money is involved (so there's always a willing, new participant ready to enter the market). Eventually, one side will win and the killing will stop, for a while.

Do you watch the TV show "The Wire" on HBO? (Maybe the best crime drama EVER, IMO.) That show portrays the cycle with impressive accuracy in the clash between two drug enterprises and the police, with the eventual emergence of Marlowe (sp?) controling most of his rival's old turf. When that happened, the bodies stopped surfacing, but the Baltimore police didn't have a thing to do with it - they just moved on.

That's the classic cycle of futility we're stuck in. Snitching abuses are just a symptom. Sure they might help convict a killer, and I've opposed the "stop snitching" meme. Their use merits close scrutiny, though, especially when used to prosecute lower-level offenses like drug possession. It would be naive to think criminals wouldn't lie about others to avoid culpability for their own crimes, or for lots of other reasons.

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