Archive for category Drugs
The Cato Institute researches many political and policy issues, and one of the most disturbing ones they focus on is the overuse of police force when conducting paramilitary raids.
Cato Fellow Radley Balko highlighted the trend toward heavy-handed police practices in Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America. Radley continues to chronicle police abuses at The Agitator and Reason. Recent examples of police excesses include the unnecessary death of seven-year old Aiyana Jones in Detroit and this raid on an innocent elderly couple in Chicago (immigrants who fled the Soviet Union because of oppression).
One of the fruits of Radley’s research was the Raidmap, a Google map application that allows you to see the scope of this epidemic of “isolated incidents.” You can also sort botched raids by category: death of an innocent, raid on an innocent suspect, death or injury of an officer, death of a nonviolent offender, unnecessary raids on doctors and sick people, and other examples of paramilitary police excess.
The Raidmap is an interesting tool that allows users to study paramilitary police raids and abuses across the country in an interactive form. And now you can embed it on your webpage if you should so desire. Find the embedable link here.
A little while ago, the video of a drug raid in Columbia Missouri was released on YouTube. The video shows a SWAT team barging into a citizen’s house late a night and immediately opening fire, shooting the family dogs and putting a small child at risk. The result? A $300 fine for the possession of drug paraphernalia. That’s right: a SWAT team terrorized a family, killed their pets, and risked the life of a child to bust someone for owning a pipe.
The video in question:
To make matters worse, the police apparently lies about the details of the raid in order to save face. And, as Reason Magazine points out, the only thing unusual about this particular raid was that it was caught on video.
But despite all the anger the raid has inspired, the only thing unusual thing here is that the raid was captured on video, and that the video was subsequently released to the press. Everything else was routine. Save for the outrage coming from Columbia residents themselves, therefore, the mass anger directed at the Columbia Police Department over the last week is misdirected. Raids just like the one captured in the video happen 100-150 times every day in America. Those angered by that video should probably look to their own communities. Odds are pretty good that your local police department is doing the same thing.
First, some background on the raid depicted in the video: On February 11, the Columbia, Missouri, police department’s SWAT team served a drug warrant at the home of Jonathan Whitworth and Brittany Montgomery. Police say that eight days earlier they had received a tip from a confidential informant that Whitworth had a large supply of marijuana in his home. They say they first conducted a trash pull, and found marijuana residue in the family’s garbage. During the raid, police shot and killed the family’s pit bull. At least one bullet ricocheted, injuring the family’s pet corgi. Whitworth, Montgomery, and their 7-year-old son were at home at the time. The incident was written up in the Columbia Daily Tribune, noted on a few blogs that cover drug policy (including a post I put up here at Reason), and then largely forgotten for several weeks.
On April 28, I received an email from Montgomery. She had seen my post at Reason and read an account of some of my reporting on SWAT teams published in Reader’s Digest. She said she was reading to her son in his bedroom at the time of the raid. Her husband had just returned home from work. Police fired on their pets within seconds of entering the home.
“I’ve never felt so violated or more victimized in my life,” Montgomery wrote. “It’s absolutely the most helpless and hopeless feeling I could ever imagine. I can’t sleep right … and I am constantly paranoid. It’s a horrible feeling … to lose the safety and security I thought I was entitled to in my own home. Nobody protected us that night, my son and I were locked in the back of a police car for nearly four hours on a school night while they destroyed my home.”
(Read the whole thing here — it’s worth the time.)
I have some personal interest in this story. My ex-wife was the subject of a violent police raid not long ago. Her sister was staying with her, and was on parole for drug charges. Her name was given by an informant who was trying to avoid her own jail time for drug use. It was alleged that there was a wanted drug dealer staying at my ex-wife’s house, so the police launched a raid. They charged in, setting off flash bangs to subdue the danger posed by three children and their legally-blind grandmother. My ex’s sister didn’t even know the person they were looking for, and her drug test came up clean. The most they had to go one was a jar of a “suspicious powder” that was a sand-painting one of the kids had made for his grandmother. They had no evidence and moved on the word of an untrustworthy witness motivated by getting a deal, and they put innocent children’s lives in danger.
Well, the AP is finally catching on to a very simple and obvious fact: the Drug War is a farce.
After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.
Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked.
“In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.”
This week President Obama promised to “reduce drug use and the great damage it causes” with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.
Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.
These buffoons need to read up on the history of alcohol prohibition and the crime it caused, and what happened to that crime once prohibition ended.
Bottom line is that the war on drugs is an utter failure, and the victims of it are the American people who are having their rights violated and their homes and lives destroyed by over-zealous law enforcement agencies that are using more and more aggressive tactics with less and less evidence for smaller collars. This should worry everyone.
Another gem from Jonolan at Reflections from a Murky Pond, who points out that hipsters and liberals who go out of their way to purchase fair trade goods don’t seem to mind importing their drugs from Mexican warlords who terrorize, kidnap, and kill the people of Mexico to maintain their power.
It’s rather ironic though that all these Liberal “hipsters’” ethical consumerism goes up in smoke as it were when it comes to toking up.
But hey, I suppose that they have to draw the line somewhere…
Reason TV presents a short video discussing the current drinking age across the US, and whether there is any merit in maintaining the drinking age at 21 instead of one lower.
Today, we all take the drinking age for granted, but should we? In fact, the US is one of only four countries in the world with a drinking age as high as 21—the other three are Indonesia, Mongolia and Palau.
Is the policy working to reduce health and safety issues related to youthful alchohol abuse? Is enforcing the drinking age the best use of scarce public resources? What are the unintended consequences of alcohol prohibition for 18-20 year olds?
Organizations such as Mother Against Drunk Driving (MADD) argue that the drinking age is an effective policy and that the answer to ongoing alcohol related problems for 18-20 year olds is more education and better enforcement.
John McCardell, president of Choose Responsibility, and 135 university presidents and chancellors across the country believe it’s time to take a fresh look at the drinking age. The former president of Middlebury College and the new head of Sewanee/University of the South, McCardell says our current system encourages unsupervised binge drinking.
This is what the ridiculous drug war hath wrought. Remind anyone of that Prohibition thing back in the ’20s and the fallout from that? I can understand why my fellow conservatives may want to prevent access to recreational drugs, but anyone who understands economics can see how making these drugs illegal has inflated the profit margin on them so high that people are willing to kill innocent bystanders.
If we legalized drugs in the US, this would rapidly dissipate. This is our fault. Read the rest of this entry »
New York City is cracking down on “smoke-easies,” bars and clubs that let their customers light up despite a municipal edict that forbids such accommodation … Because many of the targeted night spots are defended by nearly impregnable barriers of coolness, the health department “has deputized a team of inspectors—many of them younger and hipper-looking than the stereotypical bureaucrat—to work into the wee hours, posing as patrons and hunting for tolerance of smoking by clubs’ employees.” Read the rest of this entry »
Reason.tv has a 30-minute segment from John Stossel’s show on Fox Business featuring some of the heavy-hitters from Reason Magazine:
On March 4, 2010, Jacob Sullum, Nick Gillespie and Virginia Postrel appeared on a special episoode of Fox Business Network’s Stossel devoted to prohibition to discuss drug laws, ridiculous media scare stories, and legalizing markets in human organs.
Approximately 30 minutes.
With a discussion involving recreational drugs and trafficing in human organs, how can you go wrong?
I can’t embed it, so follow the link to see the video.
Reason TV presents an interview with California Judge Jim Gray discussing drug prohibition, and who really benefits from it.
In 1992, Jim Gray, a conservative judge in conservative Orange County, California, held a press conference during which he recommended that we rethink our drug laws. Back then, it took a great deal of courage to suggest that the war on drugs was a failed policy.
Judge Jim Gray is a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is the author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs.