When MU Police Department officers pulled over then-freshman football player Terry Beckner Jr. on Jan. 20 for not having his headlights on, they discovered Beckner Jr. to be in possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana. He was charged with a misdemeanor possession and taken to the station to be photographed and fingerprinted.
But if the Columbia Police Department had arrested Beckner Jr., he would have undergone a much different procedure.
Both CPD and MUPD arrest individuals in possession of marijuana, but according to the Columbia Daily Tribune, CPD follows a city ordinance that prohibits them from taking violators of low-level marijuana possession laws into custody.
MUPD’s dual state and city jurisdiction allows them to circumvent this ordinance and their department has continued to detain, photograph and fingerprint suspects in possession of marijuana without any consequence to their department.
CPD on the other hand, issues citations/arrest summons to alleged perpetrators for possession of marijuana under 35 grams at the scene of their encounter with suspects. These issuances of citations and summons are recorded by the police and in the court system as an arrest, even though CPD does not detain offenders of this type of marijuana possession. There has been notable demonstration of this process in the “arrests” of Jakeenan Gant and Russell Woods by CPD for possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
According to CPD spokeswoman Latisha Stroer, a court summons is an arrest. Those issued a court summons are required to agree in writing to appear in court, at which point they are released and not taken into custody.
According to Missouri state law, possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year of incarceration or up to a $1,000 fine.
But a 2004 Columbia City Ordinance states any person caught in possession of a misdemeanor level of marijuana “shall not be required to post bond, suffer arrest, be taken into custody for any purpose nor detained for any reason other than the issuance of a summons.”
MUPD does not have to comply with the city ordinance because it is commissioned by both the state of Missouri and the city of Columbia, giving it dual jurisdiction.
“We print them and photograph them right off the bat because it has to be done when you’re convicted of the crime, so we do it at the front end because we’re not right across the street from the courthouse,” MUPD Maj. Brian Weimer said.
Columbia attorney Dan Viets strongly disagreed with the way MUPD treats small-time marijuana offenders, saying MUPD should follow the the Columbia city ordinance.
“MUPD violates the law, and CPD follows the law,” Viets said.
Local marijuana activists question MU’s appropriation of police resources on these low-level marijuana possession arrests.
Benton Berigan, president of the MU chapter of NORML, an organization advocating for the national reformation of marijuana laws, disapproved of how much money and time is being devoted and allocated from MUPD to marijuana arrests, calling MUPD’s actions “a little ridiculous.”
Edited by Kyra Haas | email@example.com