How many times is this going to happen before there are some changes at HPD??
Police in Houston, Texas handcuffed, detained and searched the vehicle of an innocent man for over an hour this week, all because he gave change to a homeless person. According to Houston’s Channel 2 News, police wrongfully accused Greg Snider of giving drugs to the man who approached him and asked for change.
Snider said that he was pulling out of a parking deck and talking on his cell phone when a homeless man asked if he could spare any change. Snider rolled down his window, gave the man 75 cents and drove away.
Minutes later, a Houston police cruiser appeared in his rear-view mirror, blue lights blazing. He pulled over and was astonished to find himself face-to-face with a violently agitated officer.
“He’s screaming. He’s yelling. He’s telling me to get out of the car. He’s telling me to put my hands on the hood,” Snider recounted. “They’re like, ‘We saw you downtown. We saw what you did.’ And I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I gave a homeless man 75 cents.’”
Officers dragged Snider from his car and cuffed him on the side of the road. At least 10 other police cruisers arrived at the scene and the officers spent an hour with drug-sniffing dogs, ripping apart the interior of Snider’s car and looking for drugs that weren’t there.
Finally, the police were forced to admit their mistake and let Snider go. He is considering legal action and was particularly put off that the cops seemed to find the whole thing funny.
This is precisely the problem with our current drug laws and enforcement culture. Instead of our police spending their time on solving serious crimes, they have been trained to devote most of it to an endless pursuit of minor offenders… so much so that they are willing to make mistakes like the arrest and detention of innocent citizens in the hopes of uncovering a major drug deal. And for the cop to witness the interaction in downtown Houston, and follow him onto the interstate instead of confronting him at the scene? Well, let’s just say it’s not only a waste of Mr. Snider’s time, but it’s also a complete waste of our tax money.
I too have been detained unfairly because an HPD cop thought I had drugs in my vehicle. Though unlike Mr. Snider, I was too scared to file a complaint, fearing possible retribution. Kudos to him for standing up against this atrocity.
Thankfully for Mr. Snider, the police owned up to their mistake on site. But what would’ve happened had they decided to formally arrest him and throw him in jail? For many people, an arrest record means that they are immediately at risk for losing their job. Once detained, that puts them at risk for eviction or foreclosure because they are unable to pay any of their bills on time. Just one unlucky encounter with a cop’s poor judgment can change the course of someone’s life for a long time.
Back before the election, I asked the Mayor about situations involving police mistreatment and brutality. She answered sincerely that steps have been taken to make filing a complaint against the department easier. But beyond changes outside of HPD, Mr. Snider’s incident reveals that much more work is still needed within to stop these abuses of power. I hope this becomes a priority in Parker’s third and final term.