The revolving jail doors
One of the most-read features in our newspaper is the Police Beat. And anyone who reads the police reports with regularity has noted, I'm sure, that the same old names appear there, time after time after time. It's a joke around our office. "Hey, look, there's so-and-so in the Police Beat again." A story in today's newspaper tells of a special operation by state police, local authorities, liquor control enforcement agents and adult probation officers to get drugs and guns off the streets in the Washington area. That's commendable. But when you continue reading, it seems like the efforts of law enforcement officials are all for naught. During one of the special patrols earlier this week, police arrested one Douglas Yondale Cochran of Washington, who also goes by the name Yandell Barfield. Mr. Cochran was driving a stolen SUV on East Wylie Avenue, in the same general vicinity where he was shot earlier this month. I'm guessing a heated discussion of the pros and cons of supply-side economics got out of hand. Anyway, in addition to being behind the wheel of a vehicle that had been stolen from a rental car agency, Mr. Cochran, according to police, was in possession of crack cocaine, marijuana and several thousand dollars (Guess he had just hit on the Cash Five drawing, huh?). When it comes to dealing with the law enforcement community, this isn't Mr. Cochran's first rodeo. Until just recently, he was in federal custody on drug and escape charges, and is on federal parole. Despite all of this, bond for Mr. Cochran was set at $10,000, and he was out of the county jail in a matter of hours. Also arrested Wednesday was 19-year-old Steven Sadler of Washington. According to police, he ran from them and, when caught, was found in possession of a razor knife, a .38-caliber handgun and suspected Vicodin pills. I'm sure that drug thing will be cleared up as soon as Mr. Sadler gives police his valid prescription. Sadler, who, I'll remind you, was carrying a knife and a gun, was jailed on a paltry $2,500 bond. He's probably walking the streets again as I type this. No one can fault the efforts by police to get these people off our streets, and I don't know what constraints a district judge operates under when setting bail, but we have to do a better job of protecting our community from dopers, thieves and potential killers. People like Cochran and Sadler should be held without bond until their trials. They are threats to the community and should be treated as such. And, if they are found guilty, they should get much longer prison sentences than those currently being handed out. We're always seeing people sentenced to jail for dope-dealing, thievery and violent crimes who are back on the streets, and back in the Police Beat, in a matter of months. It's ridiculous. If the laws don't allow tougher treatment of these people, the laws need to be changed. If we need to build more jails, let's get busy. At least that will create some construction jobs.