In the early morning hours of Tuesday this week, a Pullman police officer was walking around the off-campus apartment complex of WSU power forward DeAngelo Casto when he noticed a screen missing on an apartment window. Curious, the cop peaked in the window and saw Casto sitting on his floor rolling a joint. Shortly afterward, the officer was at the front door issuing a marijuana possession ticket and chalking up the third star Cougar on the team to get busted for pot this season. And as Seattle Weekly reporter Keegan Hamilton reported, the case raises the question: Is there a weed problem at WSU, or a discrimination problem at PPD? One reader thought carefully and came up with a well-crafted response.
Alright, so apparently there's been some confusion. There are two issues involved and they need to be dealt with individually.
1. Casto possessed marijuana (regardless of how he was caught). This is a violation of team rules and therefore he must be punished the same way as the other two players. In addition to this, there is clearly a problem on the WSU basketball team and Ken Bone would be wise to crack down on it. While he cannot fairly give Casto a different penalty than the other two players, next year must have a much stronger penalty (scholarships anyone?). This is coming from a die-hard Coug, so no one should accuse me of being overly harsh.
2. The Pullman Police Department clearly needs to be taken to task. While the idea that they're discriminating against african american players is ludicrous, there is a significant amount of over-policing of all students in Pullman which needs to be addressed. While I don't envy the police department's need to control illegal activity in a party town, their actions need to be restrained by legal principle. Unfortunately, many police departments (especially those in smaller towns) do not do a great job of "continuing education" in regards to legal guidance on these matters. Many Pullman students have experienced marginally legal police stops (i.e. either there is a fabricated reason to pull someone over or an obscure infraction which is rarely enforced elsewhere or with non-students) only to have their vehicle searched extensively for any reason to pull them over. Apparently, similar things are happening regarding invasion of privacy in students' homes as well. This needs to be stopped immediately and perhaps some training programs need to be established to help maintain an appropriate relationship between the Pullman Police Department and the citizens of Pullman. The police are not the enemy and they should not be treated like they are; however, they still need to stay within the law to enforce the law.
Hamilton, author of the original post, and a man deeply committed to justice, basketball-based or otherwise, just e-mailed me this response to Asa's comment.
1. It does seem like a double-standard that Casto's suspension was rescinded while his two teammates were punished for nearly identical infractions earlier in the season. Ostensibly, the school is waiting to see if the charges against Casto have any merit. But it's totally right to point out that whatever happens to Casto in court, he was caught rolling a doob. That is no doubt a violation of team rules and should warrant a suspension.
2. Is it really ludicrous to think these players were singled out because they are black? It could very well be a coincidence that three black student athletes were all busted for the same petty crime, but Pullman is a small town with an even smaller black population. Racial profiling occurs even in large cities like Seattle, why couldn't it happen in Pullman too? That's not necessarily suggesting that all Pullman cops are closeted bigots who have it out for WSU's black students, but there may be a subconscious bias that makes them more likely to pull out the handcuffs when a warning might normally suffice.
Two valid arguments, to be sure.
One thing that seems inarguable among nearly everyone is the fact that cops in any city should have better things to do than go creeping around people's windows looking for pot smokers.