Casualties of the Drug War(tm)

Take a close look at these clowns. 

They are accused of selling crack cocaine from the house they shared with relatives in Framingham, Massachusetts. As is sadly predictable, people who get involved in the recreational pharmaceutical industry eventually get arrested by the local police. What happened next was also sadly predictable.

Radley Balko has been doing yeoman’s work bringing this sort of thing to light. The SWAT team kicked their way into the house after midnight. In the process of serving this high risk search warrant, a man died. Even if we imagine that he is totally guilty of assisting the two suspects above of trafficking drugs, how is summary execution a fair punishment? (RSS readers click here to watch video)

The people involved seem to be asking the wrong questions. They keep asking why highly trained people would make the mistake of shooting during the entry. The real question we need to ask is why are we allowing police officers to serve search and arrest warrants after midnight with grenades and machineguns?

You can’t possibly tell me that these two guys NEVER left the house. How hard is it to arrest them during a traffic stop, or on their way to the car? Sure, the (alleged) criminal actions of these two, including several outstanding warrants on the guy on the right, brought down the law on this family. We expect criminals to do bad things. What we also expect is for our paid professional police officers and their leadership to make intelligent decisions. It’s time we demand that our police officers stop serving search warrants like this. There is a time and place for door kicking, tap, tap, bang, bang, slayin’ fricken’ bodies, but that place is hostage rescue, not drug search warrants.

A huge tip of the hat to Radley Balko, whose tireless efforts in this regard will make the difference in changing this broken system.

Update: Radley posts more on this raid, including the police statement and Radley’s commentary on it…

Interesting wording. Stamps wasn’t killed by a cop. Rather, Stamps was “fatally struck by a bullet which was discharged from a SWAT officer’s rifle.” I’m also fairly certain that if Mr. Stamps had been the one whose gun discharged a bullet that fatally wounded a SWAT officer, Mr. Stamps’ name would have been released to the public rather quickly. And Carl’s initial statement to the press would have been less ambiguous.

Go read this story there. Remember, this can happen to you. A wrong number on the search warrant, a cop who picks the wrong house in the night, or a neighbor with a grudge that falsely accuses you. Even if everyone in the house was guilty, what did we gain by the shooting?

Even if you support the drug war, it isn’t any more difficult to get high in Framingham, Massachussets today than it was last week. So what purpose do the 150 or or so drug raids per day in this country serve, other than to inflict government-sanctioned violence on people suspected of consensual, ultimately political crimes?

3 responses to “Casualties of the Drug War(tm)

  1. “You can’t possibly tell me that these two guys NEVER left the house. How hard is it to arrest them during a traffic stop, or on their way to the car?”

    Yep – we have a case in Pittsburgh where the FBI raided a house at night and the lady shot one of them, thinking it was a home invasion. The same question you asked above is being asked in this case as well.

  2. Also what’s the point of such a raid? They worried that all the drugs might be flushed or burned up in the time it takes to serve a warrant?

    I’d say if the evidence is so minuscule maybe it isn’t worth your time. Also I had some issues with my sewer pipe at home and I got to see what a Metro-Boston sewer line looks like. Why couldn’t they have the town block or somehow collect the materials leaving the house just before the paper is served? Wouldn’t be pretty, but sifting through shit and kitchen waste for crack rocks seems a WHOLE lot more desirable than an elderly man with a GSW who wasn’t armed or being non-compliant.

    The only other argument I could hear is that it might give the bad guys time to get ready for a shootout. Well given that innocent people are getting shot, and all the stories we read about no-knocks being served on the wrong address or wrong apartment unit, I think that risk is a necessary one.

    Let’s face it, every little town everywhere has a SWAT team. My town does. Do they need it? HELL NO! In the event of a major incident its a short drive from Boston to here.

    SWAT teams are VERY expensive to build and maintain, where does this money come from? From Budgets, and budgets are padded by sending the entry team to arrest two drug dealers when a handful of beat officers, maybe with a riot gun or patrol rifle readied is all that’s needed.

  3. Weer’d, you are right on all counts. I can’t find it now, but sometime in the last few months I read something about how even the elite door kickers in the US Military weren’t doing raids very much anymore when they found high value targets. They had found that even against the big names, they had more success with less collateral damage just doing a “Knock and Call Out.”

    I think that the same commenter complained that saying that we were militarizing the police had it exactly backward. The military guys were pretty nice, and the National Guard units that had significant numbers of police officers would raid and trash any building they liked. It was the civilian police officers who were messing up the military operations by being jerks. I wish I could find that comment. Even more, I wish I could get it verified.