Discussion on Crime and Justice

The topic of the September 12, 2020, Let’s Talk Liberty was Crime and Justice. We started with a quick overview of the Des Moines City Council’s resolution setting up a task force to study the legalization of marijuana. The task force was authorized by a June 22, 2020, resolution of the council. The Council is not seeking to legalize marijuana, rather it seeks to make arrest for possession of marijuana for personal use the lowest enforcement priority. The task force is to make its recommendation of the feasibility of the proposal by the first work session of the Council in October 2020.

We then moved to the amendments of the Polk County ordinance, Chapter 4, Regulating Licensing of Dogs and Control of At-Large and Abandoned Dogs. A public hearing has been held on changing enforcement from Public Works to the Sheriff’s Department. A comment by a participant in the discussion summed up the opinion of the group, the Sheriff’s office should be focused on other matters. The discussion group was also, as usual, unsure of why the County wanted to make the change as no information other than the proposed changes to the ordinance themselves, could be found easily by a member of the public. The proposed changes in the ordinance may be found with the agenda of the Sept. 1, 2020, Board of Supervisors agenda.

We then turned our attention to the planks in the Polk County Libertarians platform under Crime and Justice. There are two planks, one calls for lower priority of enforcement on victimless crimes. The second plank calls for fair enforcement and treatment of those accused. The fair enforcement includes not using racial profiling, not requiring people without financial resources to go to jail while wealthier people can pay fines instead, and not discriminating based on one’s sex or gender orientation.

There were examples shared by participants in the discussion of what would be a victimless crime. These examples ranged from the municipal to the state, to the federal levels of government. One participant noted the most abused ordinance was for public intoxication. There was discussion about the person’s right to be drunk in public compared to other people’s desire not to have to smell, see, or hear what may result from the intoxicated person.

Another example given of victimless crimes was prostitution, with one participant saying it would be better to call it sex work to distinguish it as a job in a particular industry instead of a crime. There was further discussion on finding the line between non-criminalization of the work, but continuing to have forced prostitution illegal. The regulation of legalized sex work and licensing of practitioners was also discussed.

Rick Stewart is the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in the November 3, 2020, election. He joined the Polk County Libertarians at the Let’s Talk Liberty as part of his 99-county tour. It was a coincidence that the topic of the discussion was crime and justice as Rick’s campaign is motivated by the need to end the war on drugs. As with prohibition, the war on drugs has allowed the growth of criminal enterprises, encouraged growth of law enforcement authority, and not addressed the issues that lead individuals to use drugs. As the discussion weaved in and out of various examples of crimes, Rick summarized victimless crimes as, “It’s not a police officer’s job to take care of everything [a person] may not like.”

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