Mimesis Law
23 October 2021

The Ebola Meth Joke, Another Reason to Never Trust Them

Mar. 30, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Whoever said that cops don’t have a great sense of humor? Look no farther than Granite Shoals, Texas for proof that police like a practical joke just as much as the rest of us:

The joke has shown up on some police department Facebook pages: Anyone in possession of methamphetamine or other illegal drugs should stop by the police station for testing because the drugs might somehow contain Ebola.

In Granite Shoals, Texas, one such post, labeled a “Breaking News Alert” in block letters, was shared thousands of times. It even netted an arrest, which the local police department then reported on its Facebook page.

They even announced the woman who fell for the prank:

The department, which did not respond to several calls Monday seeking comment, posted that the “winner of the Facebook post challenge” was Chasity Hopson, a 29-year-old woman now charged with possession of less than 1 gram of a controlled substance.

Hopson was being held on $5,000 bond. She did not have a lawyer listed in court records who could comment on her behalf and several phone numbers listed for her were disconnected.

Before you start laughing about the fact someone actually brought their meth to the police station for Ebola testing, consider the bigger picture.

Ebola has killed people. There have been diagnosed cases in the USA, in fact, including in Texas, where someone actually died of it.

Consider that meth and plenty of other illegal drugs cause paranoia, and people become addicted to them; so severely addicted in some cases that they continue to use them despite the fact they are clearly destroying their lives as well as their health.

So you have people who are more or less powerless to stop doing something, and that something happens to make them more prone to worry about things that may seem obviously silly to the rest of us. The police then announce that something deadly and terrifying might lace the drugs that have those people firmly in their grasp. They pretend to offer help.

It’s easy to have a little laugh at Hopson’s expense, but it says something important about the way we view police in this country. It’s funny because the police obviously wouldn’t want to save some poor meth addict from a scary disease in their drugs because drugs are illegal. What sort of moron would think that, rather than trick addicts into turning themselves in with drugs, cops would actually try to help people make sure that, if they’re going to use drugs, that the drugs be as safe as possible? What a ridiculous idea!

The cops’ fun little game had its detractors:

Police say threats about “Ebola meth” are a fun, harmless sting they set up to catch criminals in the act, even if the joke alludes to what was once an actual global public health crisis. But two good-government advocates said the posts run the risk of degrading trust in law enforcement and public health authorities.

And in the case of Granite Shoals, the local district attorney questioned whether the post might alarm people who don’t use drugs, but might think a deadly virus is present in their community.

“I think there’s some collateral issues that you have to consider before you use a sting,” said Sonny McAfee, the district attorney for Burnet County, Texas, which is northwest of Austin.

It’s hard to imagine where those “good-government advocates” have been recently, but it certainly wasn’t following the news. What cops did is a joke because trust in law enforcement is already degraded. We can all have a laugh at Hopson’s expense because it seems she’s the only person around naïve enough to think police aren’t just out to bust people with drugs.

Furthermore, the district attorney exhibits a classic government official move with his comment, concerning himself not with the fact police are tricking drug users who still trust them in order to amuse people who are enlightened enough to know better, but apparently worrying only about those trusting citizens who don’t have any drugs but still get frightened by the mere mention of Ebola. You have to hand it to him that he knows his bread and butter are the ingenuous and easily worried.

The cops’ tactic has its defenders as well:

Clint McNear, a law enforcement consultant and retired police officer, compared “Ebola meth” posts to a tactic he once used: calling a person with an outstanding warrant to say someone had turned in a wallet full of cash with the person’s name on it.

“Clever ideas to catch criminals (are) not new,” McNear said. “And as the criminal evolves, law enforcement evolves with them.”

For McNear, deceiving Hopson is fine because cops, himself included, have been deceiving people for years. His clever wallet trick, of course, played on the greed of people willing to show up to claim cash that isn’t theirs and who may be fugitives with serious cases, while the current trick spreads fear of a public health threat to those most likely to be at risk of it. Those two are close enough for McNear, though. A trick is a trick, it seems, and cops’ senses of humor have apparently evolved over the years.

Meanwhile, Hopson probably sits in jail in lieu of a $5,000 bond she probably can’t afford, perhaps without the benefit of counsel, and all for showing up at the police station with less than 1 gram of a controlled substance she couldn’t just quit using because police made her think they were willing to test it for something that might kill her.

At least someone seems to get the problem:

Tom Smith, Texas director of the advocacy group Public Citizen, called tactics like the Ebola post “pure deception.”

“At a time when we’re having a crisis with growing heroin addiction, it’s outrageous that we would set traps for people instead of coming up with strategies to get them into treatment,” Smith said.

For Hopson, the message certainly isn’t that people in power care about her health and wellbeing. When she gets out, she’ll no doubt be even less likely to trust authority figures, and that includes people who try to find her treatment or other services.

Authorities have made it clear that Hopson is a punch line, not someone in need. She’s also yet another reason why the rest of us should think twice before trusting cops who claim they want to help.

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