Police Oppose Columbia South Carolina Law

We wrote about this "crazy South Carolina law"  in the last two week, but it turns out that not even the police agree with the scope of this law.  Huffington Post printed an article on August 28, detailing Columbia Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago's opposition to the new law.  The National Law Center has been raising concerns about this issue and staff appeared on MSNBC last week.  The Huffington Post quoted the acting police chief saying, " We can't just take people to somewhere they don't want to go.  I can't do that. I won't do that." 

It is amazing that the legislation was passed without opposition at the Council.  No one thought that this might be a violation of constitutional rights of the low income?  Then the comments made by Councilman Cameron Runyan in the face of this opposition is even more amazing.  This was his quote in the Huffington Post article, "We have to understand that the only cure for poverty is commerce." This is the basis of his law, which is a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem.  Commerce does not get a person who cannot work (long term disabled) more income.  People who have a criminal background and cannot find a job are far away from the ability to engage in legal commerce.  Commerce does not cure the individual who is addicted and can only find programs that will help after she has cured herself.   It is no wonder that they came up with such a misguided solution when they were starting with the premise that poverty has been left unchecked thus destroying commerce. 

Councilman Runyan was willing to say publicly that the suffering of his citizens who are without housing was hurting businesses. He did not mention the impact on the kids, their schools or the breakup of families. This policy of arresting people who do not go into shelter has so many problems with putting business over the welfare of his own citizens among the top.  I believe that all of these Councilmembers should be fired from their elected office for their stunning lack of human decency or concern for their own voters.  Is it hubris or a lack of understanding or an inability to grasp complex issues?  These men and women elected to represent all the residents (including those without a fixed residence) need to spend the weekend on the streets of Columbia to see how things work.  They need to host a group of homeless people to talk about the issues, and most of all they need to repeal this law and convene a plan to provide safety and security rather than jail to those proud homeowners foreclosed on in Columbia or former tenants who are waiting for disability screenings. 

Brian Davis

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