By now dedicated NBA and drug culture fans who frequent this blog have already heard about Joakim Noah's arrest for marijuana possession.
I am going to forgo any of the obvious jokes about Cuban, JHo or hair and just share my reaction to this "bust".
It may be worth noting that in a previous life I spent four years carrying a badge and gun and my undergrad degree is in Criminal Justice. I know a bit of law and standards for a probable cause arrest and I also know a bit about how things are done in the real world. This case has some smelly issues on both fronts.
When I first heard this news on the radio I assumed it was standard possession bust scenario. Cop pulls over car for running a light or speeding and either smells pot or sees something. Probable cause is established and the arrest is made.
But that's not what happened here. In this case we have a very tall goofy man with Side-Show Bob hair walking down the sidewalk in Gainsville, FL. This tall goofy man happened to be carrying a clear plastic cup with a dark liquid.
At this point the story takes a wrong turn.
A police officer upon seeing said tall goofy man with the dark liquid in a clear plastic cup makes the not so obvious assumption that a crime is taking place and approaches this man.
What made the cop suspicious? Why not assume that Mr. Noah was drinking iced tea at 2am in the morning? I don't think we really know the answer yet and certainly there are some circumstances that could reasonably have caused suspicion. Maybe Noah was obviously drunk. Maybe the cop asked for an autograph and smelled the booze. Or maybe the cop just saw a tall goofy guy and assumed a crime was taking place.
The story doesn't provide the details of what caused the initial reasonable suspicion but I would certainly want an answer to that question.
Regardless of what lead the officer to approach Noah and discover this heinous open container policy violation the next part is where things really get ugly.
Instead of issuing a citation and dumping the booze, the cop decides that a trip down town is in order. I have a hard time believing that every 22 year old that is caught with an open container in a college town ends up being arrested. What was different about this case that warranted an arrest which lead to finding the single joint tucked neatly away in a pack of cigarettes? And what is a professional athlete doing with a pack of cigarettes anyway?
I haven't heard any explanation for this other then the obvious assumption. The cop saw the opportunity to harass this young man because of who he is (famous) and made a very poor decision in how he handled the situation. Noah should never have been arrested at least under the circumstances as they currently have been reported.
Having tasted the power a badge and gun provides to those who carry them, I have become very suspicious of incidents like these. All the policies and procedures in the world aren't enough to prevent over zealous cops from abusing their awesome power. When such abuses take place it undermines the legitimate role law enforcement plays in our society especially in the eyes of historically repressed members of the community.
In this case a young famous star got the short end of the power that we trust to armed members of our government. Anytime that power is being abused or even potentially being abused it is the responsibility of the government to justify its actions. In this case we haven't yet heard that explained and I for one would like some answers.