Drug Policy

It's Hard Out There for a Snitch

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A great article in the Atlantic about the life and death of snitches in Baltimore:

Those who cooperate with the police are labeled "snitches" or "rats"-terms once applied only to jailhouse informants or criminals who turned state's evidence, but now used for "civilian" witnesses as well. This is particularly true in the inner cities, where gangsta culture has been romanticized through rap music and other forms of entertainment, and where the motto "Stop snitching," expounded in hip-hop lyrics and emblazoned on caps and T-shirts, has become a creed.

The metastasis of this culture of silence in minority communities has been facilitated by a gradual breakdown of trust in the police and the government. The erosion began during the civil-rights era, when informants were a favorite law-enforcement tool against groups like the Black Panthers. But it accelerated because of the war on drugs.

David Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, in New York, told me: "This is the reward we have reaped for 20 years of profligate drug enforcement in these communities." When half the young black men in a neighborhood are locked up, on bail, or on parole, the police become the enemy.

Most of the article follows one [SPOILER ALERT] ill-fated snitch:

This time Dowery's sixth sense–the feeling that had told him to turn around on his porch that morning a year earlier–failed him. One of the men drew a gun, pointed it at Dowery's head, and fired.

Then the other did the same. This time, the doctors couldn't save him.

And although the bar was crowded, no one has come forward to say they saw a thing. It's just another homicide in inner-city America, with no suspects, and no witnesses. [SPOILER END]

Read the whole thing. Heck, you could even pay for it. But if you don't, I won't tell.