The “No on P” signs, which have blanketed Sonoma County in October, hit Joe Munson where it hurt: in his moral compass. Arrested about 50 times you’d expect Oaky Joe to be in favor of defunding the police, which Measure P has called for, along with more transparency and civilian oversight. But don't judge the man by his arrest record. “We all need the fuckin’ police,” Munson told me. “There are a lot of evil motherfuckers out there and even if you have automatic weapons, guard dogs and locked gates, the evil people will find you and you’ll be out of luck.”
Munson remembers the police helicopter that circled his marijuana garden and nearly scared him to death, though he was able to act quickly. “I got away with 40 pounds,” he says. “Every season it was a game. I was James Bond. It was fun to have an adversary, though the cops were usually chasing their own tails.” Munson also remembers the flat tire on his vehicle and no tools in the trunk to fix it. A stranger stopped, helped him put on the spare so he could go on his way. That good samaritan, Munson says, turned out to be the head of the county probation department who chose not to recommend a long prison term for Munson. For that he’s grateful.
For a month this fall, Munson talked with friends and refined his views about Measure P. Now, he argues that cops should adjust their priorities, go after the real criminals, not the little guys, take classes in anger management and be subject to community scrutiny.
“I’m not a mean or a malicious person, and I don’t believe in punishment for the sake of punishment,” Munson tells me. “I grew up as an altar boy and in some ways I still am an altar boy, but when I get scared I get dangerous, just like the police. That’s when they draw their guns and shoot innocent people.” He adds, “I have no guns, but my judgement can be impaired when I’m scared.”
Meanwhile, he has issues with his sixteen-year-old daughter whom he loves dearly and who has inherited some of her father’s rebelliousness. “I can’t kill her and I can’t kick her out of the house,” Munson tells me. “I’ve got to live with her, much as I have to live with the cops.” On a recent Saturday, he took her, her brother and their friends to a skateboard park where they skated for hours and seemed happy.
Munson’s daughter told me that some of her skateboarder friends paint the letter ACAB on their boards, and that ACAB means “All Cops Are Bastards.” She added, “Cops work for a corrupt system. I see that a lot.”
Joe shook his head. “We live in a police state,” he said. “I suggest a revolution. Down with the palaces. Power to the cottages. Fan the flames of discontent.”
(Jonah Raskin is the author of “Dark Past, Dark Future: A Tioga Vignetta Murder Mystery.”)