Caught In The Crossfire

Huffington Post reporter Radley Balko has taken to posting a macabre “raid of the day” as a build-up to his forthcoming book on police militarization. These stories are must-read if you want to understand that opposition to the war on drugs is more than just about “the right to get high.” Yes, for some, that is the source of their opposition. I don’t disagree with that logic, although I choose to live a rather tee-totaling lifestyle personally, abstaining from illegal drugs, tobacco, and alcohol.

For me, it comes down to this question: what is more evil, the use of substances arbitrarily declared illegal or the tactics deployed to prevent the consumption of arbitrarily-declared illegal substances? These stories show the natural consequences of an out-of-control policy. Of particular note from Balko’s posts:

The shooting of unarmed James Hoskins, whose BROTHER was suspected of marijuana distribution. Thanks to police action, Hoskins was put in a coma and had his leg amputated.

An elderly couple has their home trashed because their son shopped at a hydroponic store. The 78-year old man was knocked to the floor and his wife had assault weapons pointed at her head when she woke up.

Cheryl Lynn Noel is shot and killed by police as they execute an arrest warrant for her son, suspected of drug possession. Because her daughter was murdered, she and her husband carried a gun. She was standing in her nightgown holding a gun as police stormed the home, shooting her down.

-An incident I blogged about a few months back involving an investigation into a suspected meth lab. The raid uncovered no meth lab, but thanks to the deployment of flash-bang grenades, did result in the burning of a 12-year old girl.

Obviously not every investigation ends with collateral damage like these do. No doubt many investigations turn up large quantities of drugs. But it’s clear that the targets of these types of raids are not just high-level dangerous criminals accused of manufacturing and distributing. It’s also clear the ultimate victims of these raids often have absolutely nothing to do with the crimes being investigated.

Does it really require vast amounts of firepower to raid the home of a Bible study leader, or an elderly couple?

The unaccountability and due process sidestepping common with prosecuting the war on drugs makes tragedies like this possible. Even when raids turn up possession of drugs, does the cost incurred by the offender really advance the safety and security of our communities? Or maybe do these RAIDS make us less safe and secure?

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