South Carolina Police Chief Threatens to Arrest Drug War Critic

Columbia Police DepartmentColumbia Police DepartmentLast week I noted that anti-drug activists in Maine had asked Portland's transit agency to reject bus ads supporting a ballot measure that would repeal local penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Such viewpoint-based censorship in a "designated public forum" would have been clearly unconstitutional. But at least no one said advocates of marijuana legalization should be arrested. No one, that is, except Ruben Santiago, interim police chief of Columbia, South Carolina's capital. Popehat's Ken White reports that Santiago recently cited a resident's criticism of marijuana prohibition as grounds for a criminal investigation.

The threat came in response to a Facebook comment by Brandon Whitmer, who was unimpressed by Santiago's announcement of a local pot bust. "Maybe u should arrest the people shooting people in 5 points [a Columbia neighborhood] instead of worrying about a stoner that's not bothering anyone," Whitmer said. "It'll be legal here one day anyway." To which Santiago replied:

@Brandon whitmer, we have arrested all the violent offenders in Five points. Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal, we will work on finding you. 

That post quickly disappeared, creating the impression that the author had thought better of threatening critics of the drug war with arrest. Not so! Santiago later posted this:

This is Interim Chief Santiago posting. I was just notified that one of my staff members deleted my post. I put everyone on notice that if you advocate for the use of illegal substances in the City of Columbia then it's reasonable to believe that you MIGHT also be involved in that particular activity[. T]hreat? Why would someone feel threaten[ed] if you are not doing anything wrong? Apply the same concept to gang activity or gang members. You can have gang tattoos and advocate that life style, but that only makes me suspicious of them, I can't do anything until they commit a crime. So feel free to express yourself, and I will continue to express myself and what we stand for. I am always open to hearing how our citizens feel like we can be effective in fighting crime.

In response to an inquiry from White, a Columbia Policy Department (CPD) spokesman confirmed that Santiago had indeed written the two posts but suggested his comments had been misinterpreted:

Chief was trying to say that he puts would-be-criminals on notice—if you commit a crime or plan to commit one, CPD will work hard to investigate and press charges according to the law.

It's easy for social media posts to be misunderstood.

In other words , when Santiago said Whitmer's criticism of a pot bust provided "reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal" and added that "we will work on finding you," he was making a statement about his department's professionalism. Or lack thereof.

A few months ago Ed Krayewski noted that Dave Navarro, a former CPD captain, had accused Santiago of plotting to frame Assistant City Manager Allison Baker. Santiago responded with a defamation suit against Navarro.

[Thanks to Allen St. Pierre for the tip.]

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  • Almanian!||



    /Col. Jeppeson

  • Brian D||

    Vague threats were issued, procedures were followed, and nothing else happened (until we find that mouthy punk.)

  • Almanian!||

    "Reports of my 'DEAD' have been greatly exaggerated." - Santiago

    Substitute "death" in either of the above quotes as appropriate. Ima go resume drinking...

  • ||

    Thugs gonna thug.

  • Andrew S.||

    Was wondering when Reason would get around to this story.

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Voters have no right to overrule the Holy Sacrament of Prohibition.

  • Doctor Whom||

    That sacrament also outweighs the First Amendment (also the Fourth, but you already knew that).

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    And the Fifth Amendment. And the Tenth Amendment. And the Commerce Clause.

  • Zeb||

    He looks kinda baked in that picture.

  • Slammer||

    He looks like Hines Ward.

  • Hyperion||

    In a thuggish sort of way.

  • Broseph of Invention||

    He has no race. Like Vin Diesel.

  • Slammer||

    Goddamit. Who ARE these fuckers? What demons are they carrying that they act out like this? And they have the power to legally kill. How are they even employed? What WON'T they do?

  • Hyperion||

    They are learning from those higher up on the food chain(the Obama admin) that the reason you get into public office is to use the force of the law to punish your enemies. Whether it's the IRS, the NSA, or just thuggery, it's the same principle.

  • Doctor Whom||

    If you like your Constitution, you can keep it (until we decide otherwise).

  • Sevo||

    "What WON'T they do?"
    Not much. If we gripe, proggies will claim we have bad insurance or something.

  • ||

    Who? Low IQ thugs who are accustomed to having their way by using grade school bully tactics and never being held accountable for it. Thats who.

  • Ted S.||

  • Brett L||

    "San[tiago], which if I'm not mistaken is Spanish for [sand in his] vagina."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    A few months ago Ed Krayewski noted that Dave Navarro, a former CPD captain, had accused Santiago of plotting to frame Assistant City Manager Allison Baker.

    Since Krayewski is apparently content to threaten the interim chief maybe he will find himself on the inside of a jail cell.

  • sloopyinca||

    So let me see if I have this straight. Dave Navarro is a rick musician as well as a cop. I've also heard that he is a notorious lifter of weights and has been spotted riding big waves off the Cozumel coast.

    Now if we can just verify his mathematics tutoring acumen, we can put to bed the mystery of the dunphinator.*

    *Assuming Morgan Fairchild was, in fact, Carmen Elektra.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Another fucking juicer with a badge.


  • CatoTheElder||

    If Brandon whitmer is doing nothing wrong, he has nothing to worry about.

    Unless he has a dog.

    Or he's worried about pigs wrecking his house or his car, or is inclined to assert his rights.

  • Sevo||

    Hil wants some quiet time:
    "Hillary bars press from speech"
    "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hasn’t even started her 2016 presidential campaign yet — and she’s already shutting out the press."

  • ||

    I keep hoping that Barry will keep doubling down on the stupid and ruin the proggies chances of getting into the white house for 100 years.

    Of course that hope rests on the ridiculous assumption that the party of stupid wont run another proggie in sheeps clothing.

    Christie 2016! Yay party of stupid!

  • Ted S.||

    The press should try not covering her campaign at all.

  • Sevo||

    I duuno.
    She's a time bomb and the press ougtha be there when she blows.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    This is Interim Chief Santiago posting. I was just notified that one of my staff members deleted my post.

    Jesus haz a sad.

  • ||

    In other news a staff member was arrested today when 500 kilos of Cocaine was found in his car.

    The search of the car was without a warrant but Interim chief Santiago said he thought smelled pot before he searched it.

  • Matrix||

    My drug of choice is alcohol. I don't use illegal substances. But I am an anti-drug war advocate. So if I protested the war on drugs, will they 'investigate' me and 'find' a couple of pounds of marijuana on my property.

    "Oh, look what we have here."

  • Rasilio||

    It *ALMOST* makes me wish I lived there.

    I don't do drugs, have never done drugs and can pretty easily prove it.

    Then set up some hidden camera's to watch my property and start goading this fascist into "investigating" me.

    In the end I should end up with a nice 7 figure settlement

  • Matrix||

    assuming they don't cap you for "OFFICER SAFETY!"

  • Andrew S.||

    Hopefully you don't own a dog...

  • Broseph of Invention||

    Kidnap the chief's dog and make it your own.

  • Aloysious||

    He looks kind of like Hines Ward.


  • Brian||

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


    Only the guilty and pursued, tried, and punished. Putting the innocent on trial would be unfair.

  • Aresen||

    I have a feeling that Brandon Whitmer is a marked man.

    I will not be surprised if he is arrested for resisting arrest in the near future.

  • Brandon||

    Ruben Santiago looks like a thumb.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal, we will work on finding you.

    And a new H et R meme was born.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    In a just world Mr. Santigo would be sentenced to an extensive stint in his own jail. After having "Police Chief" tattooed to his forehead.

  • Killazontherun||

    Clearly the framers were not serious when they did not include a death penalty for public officials who violate 1A. It would have gone a long way to separating out gangster punks like Ruben Santiago from public employment. You say no one would be willing to do the job then? Military personnel are subject to being thrown in the brig for much less. Doesn't stop recruitment.

  • Paul.||

    I had no idea Jo Koi was a police chief in South Carolina.

  • pmains||

    This is horrific. How does that man manage to cram so many comma splices into so few sentences?

  • OwenC||

    Here is his facebook page:

    feel free to let him know what you think.

  • ThisAintHell||

    $$ I didn't choose the thug life! The government made it too easy to turn down! $$

  • IceTrey||

    I don't think this guy knows what "reasonable suspicion" is.


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