Columbia, SC Should Fire Their Police Chief

Columbia, SC Should Fire Their Police Chief November 6, 2013

I suppose I should be accustomed to being routinely appalled by the thinking and behavior of law enforcement officials by now, but I find myself in a bit of shock over statements from Ruben Santiago, the Interim Police Chief in Columbia, South Carolina, on the agency’s Facebook page. After taking criticism for a big pot bust, Santiago had this exchange with an advocate of legalization:


So the Columbia police department thinks that advocating for the legalization of marijuana constitutes “reasonable suspicion” and they promise to “work on finding” the person who advocates it. The comment was deleted by someone in the department, presumably someone who at least recognized how unwise it was to say such things publicly, even if they didn’t care about the actual ethics and reasoning. But Santiago decided to double down:


ThinkProgress points out the obvious:

Setting aside the obvious First Amendment problems raised by a police chief saying that his department will “work on finding” someone for doing nothing more than expressing a political viewpoint, Santiago is wrong to suspect that a person who openly disagrees with his views about marijuana policy is engaged in illicit drug use. Though a recent Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana, a different poll found that just 12 percent of the public actually used marijuana within the last year. So even assuming that every single person who smokes marijuana also believes that it should be legal, nearly four out of five people who support legalization are not marijuana users.

Santiago should be fired immediately.

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  • eric

    even assuming that every single person who smokes marijuana also believes that it should be legal, nearly four out of five people who support legalization are not marijuana users.

    I’m sure Chief Santiago would be happy to put four innocent men in jail, rather than let one pot smoker go free.

  • doublereed

    Wow, that’s all sorts of wrong.

    “I can’t do anything until they commit a crime”? except investigate, detain, and harass you, which I guess doesn’t count…

    “Why would someone feel threatened if you are not doing anything wrong?” I dunno. Maybe because you have a gun? But seriously, this is just blatantly against the right to privacy. Which confuses me, because cops are supposed to be trained to respect privacy, so this isn’t something he’s unaware of.

    And of course the obvious fallacy of “support marijuana decriminalization” = “smokes marijuana” which is just stupidity.

  • timberwoof

    “Why would someone feel threaten[ed] if you are not doing anything wrong?”

    The Klingons and Cardassians would be proud to have Chief Santiago join their police forces. Our own favorite Klingon son Worf son of Maug spoke pretty much the same words during a hearing of a genetically enhanced person. The Cardassians never waste their time arresting anyone who hasn’t committed a crime, and their trials are just a formality.

    Dammit, don’t make our sci-fi dystopias into reality!

  • I’ve never smoked pot or taken any other illegal drug in my life (hell, I very rarely touch alcohol), yet I advocate for legalization.

  • chilidog99

    Ed, have you heard of the buttock clenching story out of Deming, New Mwxico?

    It beats this one hands down ( or pants down as it were)

    Google Eckert Deming enema


  • John Hinkle

    Sure Santiago. Go ahead and spend lots of department money on finding one possible lover of mother nature. Don’t let some basement-dwelling, long-haired, D&D-playing, incense-burning, pizza-kitchen-working, bong-collecting, Pink Floyd-listening, bike-riding, water-polo-playing miscreant challenge YOU on the department’s Facebook page.

    Wow. Where did that come from?

  • Abby Normal

    Why would someone feel threaten(sic) if you are not doing anything wrong?

    Then I’m sure the Chief wouldn’t feel the least bit concerned if Internal Affairs launched an investigation into his activities.

  • lldayo

    Every day there are stories of police doing illegal activities so by his own logic he should start looking at his own department.

  • I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone thought it was a good idea for the police department to have a Facebook page so that its officers can engage in the practice of Arguing With People On The Internet. As if it weren’t entirely predictable that they’d say something stupid. It makes as much sense as giving a six-year-old a Twitter account.

  • tbp1

    The Cardassians never…

    So, the Armenians made it into space…

  • rowanvt

    @ Tabby-

    I’m allergic to the bloody stuff and I still think it should be legal!

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Why would someone feel threaten if you ar not doing anything wrong?

    That’s a question that only Mr. Santiago can answer since he seem to be the one feeling threatened by Whitmer’s stated viewpoints as opposed to the other way around as I’m guessing Santiago means to suggest.

    At any rate, I feel threatened when a law enforcement agent cannot discern the difference between something that is wrong and something that is illegal. The two are not the same and it makes me question their ability to perform their job.

  • eubeenhadd

    I am reminded of two Terry Pratchett quotes.

    Commander Vimes didn’t like the phrase ‘The innocent have nothing to fear’, believing the innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like ‘The innocent have nothing to fear’.


    But Vimes was a policeman. No one lived a completely blameless life. It might be just possible, by lying very still in a cellar somewhere, to get through a day without committing a crime. But only just. And, even then, you were probably guilty of loitering.

  • magistramarla

    Like Tabby, I’ve never touched an illegal drug in my life, but I also advocate for the legalization of Marijuana.

    I have horrible chronic pain from autoimmune issues and I’m allergic to most pain medications.

    I react so violently to ANY opioid that I can’t even eat a poppyseed muffin.

    I would LOVE to try MJ in a doctor-supervised manner to see if it would help me with my pain.

    If others want to use it recreationally, that’s fine with me.

    So, just because one wants to see it legalized doesn’t mean that the person is doing anything illegal.

  • Alverant

    “Why would someone feel threatened if you are not doing anything wrong?”

    What do you want to bet this person is upset over the NSA spying on him. Hey, if he didn’t do anything wrong he shouldn’t mind right?

  • Larry

    Legalization advocates? How trivial is that?. Doesn’t he have any civil rights advocates down there that he needs to go torture and then murder? No black churches to fire bomb? No necktie parties to plan? His white robes don’t need cleaning?

    C’mon chief. I’d think you would have plenty of other activities on your plate to waste time going after pot heads.

  • Still, it’s nice to know that they’ve arrested all the violent offenders in Five Points. And since they have, the only crime left is harassing stoners and threatening people on the internet.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    Well, if that’s this case, then every NRA member should be under suspicion of possessing illegal weaponry!

  • uzza

    Why would someone feel threaten(sic) if you are not doing anything wrong?

    Since I live in the chief’s jurisdiction I feel qualified to answer that: I’ve met his officers, that’s why.

    This is the same department that has an APC mounting a fully operational .50 caliber machine gun; is under State investigation for corruption; one of his deputies made national news a couple weeks ago by roughing up a woman who turned down his drunken advances in a bar; he himself allegedly planted drugs on a suspect …

    It’s difficult to think of a less threatening situation than proximity to these people.

  • Trebuchet

    Popehat post on the subject.

    Off-topic: Ad-free FTB is awesome. I don’t even care about the ads any more, the SPEED! Wow!

  • stephenmurphy

    Agreed. I don’t indulge (not my thing; the smell gives me a headache) but I think it should be legalized and taxed and treated much like booze in that regard. Don’t smoke and drive etc.

  • Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC)

    Not sure what “Five Points” is; I’m assuming the local “bad neighbourhood”, but I hardly think it’s likely that they have arrested all of the violent offenders there. Every single one, Chief? You sure about that?

  • Freeman

    Yeah, that’s bad. But check out what’s been happening in New Mexico. Follow the links, and prepare to be outraged. Who can now argue that the Drug War isn’t turning the USA into a third-world hell-hole?

  • kmg50

    It’s not about drugs. It’s about power. The police chief is offended that any “little person” would question him. It’s about punishing “those people”, It’s about getting more money and weapons from the feds.

    Ideology is not not motivates them. ditto drugs. It’s about power.

  • @24:

    “Ideology is not (what) motivates them. ditto drugs. It’s about power”

    True, in one sense.

    But it really is about ideology in a broader sense.

    The Post-modern (as in totally fucking regressive) GOP is ONLY about gathering power; it’s a Ponzi scheme of Power. The rubes are suckered into donating money, running phone banks and attending rallies so that the oligarchs and demagogues can gain power–it never trickles down to the sheeple

    Where progressivism is about social and personal responsibility and the power of the group to effect change in a positive way, what passes for conservatism today is about the accumulation of power and the eschewing of responsibility.

    The GOP’s new “China Shop Rules”:

    Yeah, I fuckin; broke, YOU clean it up and pay for the damage and, oh, yeah, Why do you hate MurKKKa?”.

  • uzza

    Five Points is the local downtown collection of bars, theaters, etc adjacent to the University. Pretty upscale, not a bad neighborhood, but it’s Party Central so it attracts troublemakers. The students are always on about police protection from late night robberies and assaults, and recently there have been a couple of shootings so the police are acting like they care–in the ham-handed way we’ve come to expect.

    Santiago now (after earlier saying they’ve arrested all the violent offenders) now says they’ve “identified what the issues are”.

  • freehand

    Funny that Santiago would bring up gangs. I like to think that it’s still a minority of police officers, but I more and more frequently hear stories of police brutality, contempt for the law, planting of evidence, perjury, corruption, sexual assaults, and more. And presumably there are more getting away with this than are being brought to light and charged. So, Chief Santiago, seeing you flash police gang signs at people does make me suspicious, and makes me think that you are more likely to be a dangerous criminal (after all, how many civilians are charged with police brutality?). Aren’t you already under investigation?

    Anybody should be, if not terrified, then …cautious when threatened by a gang member. Whether or not he’s wearing a police uniform.

  • uzza

    The police here are always on about gangs, gang-affiliated, “links to a gang with national reputation” (refusing to say exactly which gang that is). For “gang” you can generally substitute “terrorist” or “young black male”. The cops react to all this as has become typical, with curfews, checkpoints, military operations.

  • caseloweraz

    kmg50: The police chief is offended that any “little person” would question him.

    I’ve read of police departments acquiring such an attitude of contempt for citizens (the people they’re sworn to protect.) It’s rather like how “carnies” (carnival/circus workers) feel about “marks.” But the carnies don’t carry guns and nightsticks; their midway exhibits may fleece the marks of a few bucks, but carnies don’t coerce anyone into attending.