A recent article about Tempe discusses some new cash coming in for a very important purpose:
The Tempe Police Department has been awarded a grant worth more than $360,000 to tackle a backlog of untested rape kits.
“We are looking at several hundred kits at least,” Mike Pooley, a lieutenant with the Tempe Police Department, said.
There are rape kits stacked to the ceiling in evidence vaults around the state and Tempe is no exception. Detectives can only guess 500 or more kits deserve to be tested and reviewed.
If you’re thinking Tempe has prioritized the investigation and prosecution of rapes as something urgent, though, you’re crazy. How does that make them any money?
At any given time, my caseload involves at least one person who got caught taking a leak in some dark alley in Tempe, far from anyone likely to be offended. The punishment? Typically, it’s a $90 check to the city and some time working for a non-profit. The cops don’t even write a formal report. Usually, the discovery is a handwritten note from the cop saying something like “AP1 was witnessed peeing from his penis in the area of [address].” Like he’d be witnessed peeing from something else?
Anyway, it’s an easy case. No big investigation. Not a lot of paperwork. An easy plea. And a little check for the city, but they add up. Urinating in public is the equivalent of the dollar menu at McDonald’s. I’m sure those checks eventually produce a nice little profit, and nobody at the city has to work too hard to make a bit of lucrative justice.
DUI, on the other hand, is the KitchenAid blender of government profitability. It ain’t cheap, but tons of people still get them. Statutory fees alone for a regular one amount to two assessments of five hundred dollars and a fine of two-fifty plus potential surcharges and the cost of jail, alcohol screening and counseling, MVD fees, and an interlock. There’s probably something I’ve left off too.
Despite the serious, complicated punishment involved, the vast majority of cases I see involve stops for little issues like a cracked windshield, a wide turn, or some other minor deviation from a marked lane. It’s the sort of thing every person on the road everywhere does every time I drive, except the suckers the police target happen to mostly be those who make the mistake of driving after dark.
DUI isn’t just a big moneymaker, but a big investment. Cops go to school to learn
parlor tricks how to administer complicated field sobriety tests. They learn about driving cues of impaired drivers that are either painfully obvious or laughably unfair, like varying your speed or going too slow. Starting and stopping and looking for your destination are no-nos, apparently. There’s a whole cottage industry of companies that profit from DUI, yet the government is more than happy to keep throwing money at it.
On top of that, the incredible density of cops patrolling Tempe’s streets is like nothing I’ve ever seen outside of Arizona. When I had a car break down in Tempe a long time ago, I sat stranded by the side of the road for a while watching cop after cop fly by chasing vehicles for minor traffic infractions. Protect and serve is more like profile and harass here. Tempe clearly has the manpower and funding to do some good. They choose not to.
More importantly, DUI involves some complex scientific evidence that’s expensive too. Not content to only convict people who are impaired to the slightest degree, Tempe (like everywhere else in Arizona) makes it a strict liability crime to have a certain blood alcohol content while in control of a motor vehicle. Cops are equipped with special, over-priced little devices to estimate that at the scene. They then have mobile substations and actual buildings where people go to blow into overpriced big devices. Those devices spit out a number that, if high enough, costs the potentially unimpaired subjects a pretty penny. A high enough reading might double the cost of the DUI. And, of course, the pricey breath test machine doesn’t keep a sample for independent retesting.
Enforcing DUI is expensive, but there’s significant return on investment. Tempe clearly has money to blow (literally…pun intended) when there’s money to be made. But for rape?
Actual rapists typically go to prison. For a long time. It’s what some might call a loss center for the government. Everyone pays to keep dangerous people off the streets. The offenders usually aren’t people with good jobs and the ability to pump several grand into the local economy. They’re usually unemployed from the moment they’re arrested due to the fact they’re usually in custody pending trial. DUI offenders, on the other hand, are almost always out of custody and working their asses off to eventually line the city’s coffers.
Tempe literally does not give a shit about rape victims. If they did, they wouldn’t waste another taxpayer dollar on victimless crimes until the backlog is gone.
But where’s the fun, and more importantly the money, in that? When someone else’s third of a million flows their way, they’ll start looking at some old rape cases. When it’s their dime, though, they’re pumping it into profitable policing.