Mother Jones writes an alarming expose on the abusive police tactics used in PI arrests. As part of their story they quoted an expert on the subject, yours truly. From Mother Jones-
State courts have not only upheld the practice but expanded the definition of public intoxication to cover pretty much any situation, says Robert Guest, a criminal defense attorney in Dallas. “Having no standard allows the police to arrest whoever pisses them off and call it PI,” he says, adding, “If you have a violent, homophobic, or just an asshole of a cop and you give him the arbitrary power to arrest anyone for PI, you can expect violent, homophobic, and asshole-ic behavior.”
I’m going to trademark the word asshole-ic(TM). I’m pretty sure that’s an RG original. Enough about me. Let’s talk about PI.
Besides the violent homophobia on display in the TABC rainbow club raid PI arrests are also used to arrest minorities en masse. Texas law forbids racial profiling, but creative cops and pro state appellate decisions have rendered profiling unecessary. Want to arrest large numbers of brown people and check their immigration papers? Just call it PI and have at it.
According to a recent report by sociology and law professors at the University of California-Berkeley, the Dallas suburb of Irving has used “discretionary” public intoxication arrests to fish for undocumented immigrants. After partnering with federal immigration officials in 2006 to check local prisoners’ residency status, Irving police increased the number of Latinos they nicked for PI and other Class C misdemeanors by 150 percent, while arrests of whites and African Americans for those offenses fell. The Mexican consul issued an advisory telling migrants to avoid Irving. “In this city, one has to be extra careful,” he told a Spanish-language newspaper. “They were clearly choosing to bring more Hispanics into jail,” says Aarti Kohli, coauthor of the Berkeley study. But the feds and local officials hailed the PI sweeps as a victory. Immigration “is expanding this program, saying, ‘Isn’t this great?'” Kohli says. “But the question they’re not asking is: How are these people getting put into jail?”