On rape kits, local government, & how your most powerful neighbors can make you miserable.

Quick-ish note, since this is my first non-comment post here on Medium: Folks who follow me on Twitter and Facebook already know that in addition to my passion for education and racial justice, I am a HUGE proponent of small-d democracy. That’s mostly what you can expect from me here: mini-(or occasionally larger)rants on why you should care more about who makes the decisions that affect your daily life, why you should try to be one of those people as often as possible, as well as thoughts on how to build more accountable relationships, families, communities, and societies.

So, without further ado…

TW: mentions of rape ahead.

Found via Jezebel: a county sheriff in Iowa who thinks rape kits don’t need to be tested because he doesn’t believe most reports of rape are true.

Gee. If only there were some way to determine whether a crime has been committed, by like, interviewing people and collecting evidence and going to court and stuff…

Oh, wait. That’s exactly the system he’s supposed to be a part of. Except apparently, he thinks his and other cops’ opinions should stand in for, y’know, actual evidence in legal proceedings.

This sheriff is a perfect example of why it is so damn important to pay attention to public officials at the local level. In addition to being a callous person who believes something untrue about reports of sexual assault, this guy has revealed that he doesn’t understand basic principles of evidence collection, and the fact that you need to actually gather as much evidence as possible before deciding what happened when a crime is alleged or committed. Even if you believe a lot of crime reports are false, you don’t know which ones are or aren’t without investigating, so there’s no legitimate reason to block evidence collection that can help determine what’s true and what isn’t.

People who actively try to block evidence collection have no place in law enforcement, period. Yet this guy is a sheriff. This is how criminals walk free and innocents get locked up: law enforcement officials who are ignorant of (or even hostile toward) proper evidence collection and due process.

People, please: Know your local electeds and appointees. Know where they work, how to contact them, how to organize/pressure them to act, and how to vote them out — or how to otherwise press for their removal if they’re not directly elected. They may not be on CNN or anywhere else, but these are your neighbors, spending your tax dollars, passing laws, and otherwise setting the terms of life in your world. They make so many incredibly important decisions that affect your daily life, often to a greater extent than the president or the federal officials you constantly hear about. They can make your community great, or they can make you and your neighbors miserable. And right now, many of them do so with almost no oversight, because people ignore them.