Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Baby Bounkham, who was severely injured after a Georgia SWAT team threw a flashbang grenade that landed inside Bounkham’s crib—cops were serving a drug warrant based on information from a confidential informant about a small amount of meth. The raid yielded no drugs and no suspect. Cops insisted they did what they could to prepare and didn’t know there were children in the house, two seemingly contradictory contentions. The sad case illustrates the interplay between the war on drugs, militarized police, and police brutality.
The story didn’t elicit national outrage, and a friend of the family raised just $38,000 in two months to cover Boumkham’s medical bills. They’re going to need more than that, as the county government has ruled it would be a “violation of the law” for it to pick up the medical costs their officers created the necessity for.
Habersham County’s attorney provided the following statement, saying: “The question before the board was whether it is legally permitted to pay these expenses. After consideration of this question following advice of counsel, the board of commissioners has concluded that it would be in violation of the law for it to do so.”
The attorney for Boo Boo’s family insists that is not good enough.
Those not discussing serious changes in the laws that protect cops and create situations like this, where a government can say it’s against the law for it to pay the medical expenses created by its officers violent actions, ought to be ignored as the noise over the Michael Brown shooting continues. Police violence is not just a problem in Ferguson, not just a problem during protests, not just a problem for young black men, but a problem with the laws cops enforce, the tools they’re given to do so, the erosion of our rights in the name of public safety, and the protections cops enjoy when they’re wrong.
Attempting to serve a search warrant by entering a house through a window got Killeen, Texas, Police Detective Charles Dinwiddie shot in the face and killed last May. It was yet another SWAT raid organized for a purpose other than the reason they were invented. The police had a search warrant looking for narcotics at the home of Marvin Louis Guy, 49. They decided to serve this warrant at 5:30 in the morning and without knocking on his door. He opened fire on them, killing Dinwiddie and injuring three others.
Though they found a glass pipe, a grinder, and a pistol, they did not find any drugs. Former Reason Editor Radley Balko took note of the deadly raid in May at The Washington Post. A police informant apparently told them there were bags of cocaine inside the house, which sounds a lot like another familiar drug raid in Virginia that got an officer killed.
The Virginia case ended with Ryan Frederick in prison for 10 years despite his insistence he thought he was defending himself against in home intruders. He may end up lucky compared to Guy. Prosecutors in Texas are going to seek the death penalty against him. KWTX offers a dreadfully written summary that says next to nothing about the circumstances of the raid but gives Dinwiddie’s whole life story. Guy faces three additional charges of attempted capital murder for shooting the other officers. The story mentions the no-knock raid but fails to explain why it happened or the failure to find any drugs.
A search for Guy in the jail inmate locator for Bell County, Texas, shows that he is being charged only for the shootings. There are no drug-related charges listed. He is being held on a bond totaling $4.5 million.
Lest we forget the state is evil.
Administrators at a Dallas County, Missouri, school read a teenage girl’s diary, discovered a reference to marijuana within its pages, and suspended the girl for the rest of 2014.
The punishment was imposed last May, but the girl’s father just went public with the situation. According toThe Springfield News-Leader:
Tom Grayhorse said his daughter, Krystal, had never been in trouble before she was called into the office and suspended May 9. Originally, she was ousted for 10 days, but it was quickly extended through the end of the 2014 calendar year.
Unable to finish her junior year, her grades plummeted and she lost out on credits needed for graduation. Grayhorse hoped the district would reconsider, allowing her to return last month so she had a chance of graduating with her class in May.
"I was really frustrated," he said last week. "I thought when school started, they’d wake up."
Grayhorse said his daughter left her journal at school, where it was discovered by school administrators. In the diary, Krystal wrote about experimenting with marijuana and considered bringing it to school. But no marijuana was found in Krystal’s possession, nor was she given a drug test. Grayhorse said the diary entry may have been a fictional story rather than a concrete plan of action—he can’t say for sure, since the school never gave the diary back.
The official cause of suspension listed on the disciplinary papers was “possession of a controlled substance,” which Grayhorse said is absurd given that she didn’t possess any drugs:
"Her ‘possession’ constitutes writing something?" he asked. "That is the alleged possession?"
Grayhorse said the notebook passages, which he was told about but never saw for himself, were cause for concern, but the punishment — not being allowed to return to school for seven months — was too drastic.
District officials maintain that Grayhorse has not revealed the full story, but they can’t elaborate, due to privacy laws.
This would not be the first time a student was disciplined for actions that stemmed from a fictional story taken too seriously by tone-deaf school administrators. But even if Krystal’s conduct was worse than Grayhorse admits, only under the absurdity of “zero tolerance” could a full-year suspension be justified.
Government schools (with ridiculous bureaucracy and no competition offering accountability to parents), teachers unions (that promote the welfare of teachers at the expense of students, and thus prefer nonsense "zero tolerance" policies), and the war on drugs (which is better stated as the war on people who mostly choose to consume things peacefully) - oh my!
A group of Boy Scouts from Central Iowa received a lesson they won’t forget in federal manners at a border crossing from Canada into Alaska. According to the scoutmaster, a casual snapshot of a Border Patrol agent got the group of about two dozen scouts and volunteers detained, searched—and one of them ultimately held at gunpoint.
According to Marcus McIntosh of Iowa’s KCCI:
Boy Scout Troop 111 Leader Jim Fox spelled out what happened to him and the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111 as four van-loads of Scouts and adult volunteers tried to drive from Canada into Alaska.
Fox said one of the Scouts took a picture of a border official, which spurred agents to detain everyone in that van and search them and their belongings.
“The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and 10 years in prison,” Fox said.
Fox said he was told it is a federal offense to take a picture of a federal agent.
Not wanting things to escalate, Fox said he did not complain.
Another of the Scouts was taking luggage from the top of a van to be searched when something startling happened.
“He hears a snap of a holster, turns around, and here’s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man’s head,” Fox explained.
… For the record, federal rules specifically permit photographing federal facilities, at least for “news, advertising, or commercial purposes.” There don’t seem to be any special limits on just-because snapshots. …
The American Civil Liberties Union offers guidance, too, including the photography of federal agents:
Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties.
But, adds the ACLU, “there is a widespread, continuing pattern of law enforcement officers ordering people to stop taking photographs from public places, and harassing, detaining and arresting those who fail to comply.”
Relatively isolated border crossings in Alaska might be the sort of place where you’d run into that pattern. …
Allegations that a CBP official pulled a gun on the Boy Scouts are “unsubstantiated” insists the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General. However, CBP did order a scout to delete a photograph of the port of entry, cuz the fact that the U.S. shares a border with Canada is super-secret. And they tossed the kid’s luggage after finding a photo of a marijuana bud on his phone. They also forced the rest of the scouts to remain in their vehicles during the fruitless search for that bud under threat of detention. So all is well, say the feds.
Given that you know what happens when the cameras stop rolling, the security video is absolutely chilling. As the video points out, the cops’ obsession with anal cavity searches is odd, given that there’s no reason for someone to be smuggling drugs that way if they aren’t crossing a border. Not surprisingly, these abuses are also being incentivized by anti-drug grants from the federal government.
It’s also useful to stop and reflect on the bigger picture here. The government believes it has the power to forcibly enter your body in the name of preventing you and others from getting high. If you’re innocent, tough luck. Oh, and they’re going to send you a medical bill for your troubles.
These searches were illegal. And Timothy Young and David Eckert were at least compensated (by taxpayers). But as I wrote in a piece for Huffington Post last year, the fact that they’re illegal doesn’t stop them from happening — and not just in New Mexico: There have been other cases in Texas,Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Michigan. If you or I illegally penetrate someone’s anus, we’re culpable for criminal sexual assault. But if a police officer illegally penetrates someone’s anus, or orders someone else to do it, it’s just a misunderstanding of the law. No one is to blame.
The cops who ordered these searches not only weren’t arrested, they weren’t disciplined in any way. The judge who signed off on the warrant in the Eckert search is protected by absolute immunity. Same for the prosecutor. The hospital staff who perform these “searches” are also committing ethical violations. But they too are unlikely to face any sanctions because they’re complying with a police request. This especially true with requests that come with a warrant.
So this is an ad put forth by anti-marijuana activists in Florida, where voters will soon have an opportunity to vote on Amendment 2, which would amend the Florida Constitution to ban the implementation of any “criminal or civil penalties” against doctors, patients, or registered treatment centers for prescribing, possessing, or distributing marijuana for the treatment of a “debilitating” illness.
It’s hard to think of a more cynical, dishonest way to attack a medical marijuana initiative. This ad single-handedly misappropriates activism against sexual assault, demonizes patients with debilitating illnesses, and insults the integrity of every medical professional in the state of Florida.
The ad misappropriates activism against sexual assault by suggesting that legalizing medical marijuana will subject intimate partners to an increased incidence of rape (which to my knowledge, has not occurred in a single state that has legalized marijuana, medical or otherwise). It demonizes patients with debilitating illnesses by implying that patients who get prescribed cannabis will use it for nefarious purposes, e.g. to drug and rape intimate acquaintances (again, no evidence of this occurring at all in states that have legalized medical marijuana). And it insults the integrity of doctors and nurse practitioners by implying that they would ever willingly prescribe cannabis to someone who in their professional opinion, doesn’t seem like they would benefit from it in light of all other treatment options (because you know, even though many of them spend six figures on med school and are subject to the continuing scrutiny of state licensing agencies, there’s an army of them waiting to throw away their careers by prescribing cannabis to their patients all willy nilly).
In the world of law, there’s a saying: If the facts aren’t on your side, pound on the law. If the law isn’t on your side, pound on the facts. If neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound on the table. The facts are clearly not on the side of Anti-marijuana activists, and soon, the law won’t be either. So now, they’re pounding on the table. Of course, if you reach that point, it means you’ve already lost the argument on all the merits and you’re just trying to scare people with whatever far-fetched scenarios you can gin up. Which is precisely what this ad is trying to do.
A 48-year-old terminal cancer patient was rushed to the hospital from an Iowa courthouse Monday during his trial over felony charges for growing marijuana he uses as a treatment for his rare condition.
Brian Wellner of Iowa’s Quad-City Times’ first reported that paramedics took Benton Mackenzie, who was expected to take the stand in his trial in Scott County District Court on Monday, from the courtroom to a local hospital after he complained of extreme pain and hallucinations related to his angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer of the blood vessels which has produced large lesions on Mackenzie’s skin.
Despite Mackenzie’s deteriorating condition, his trial is expected to be completed Friday, Linda Bowman, the judicial trial court supervisor at the Scott County Clerk’s Office, told The Huffington Post. If Mackenzie is found guilty, he faces at least three years in prison — a punishment that he’s said equates to a death sentence …
According to FreeBenton.org, a website documenting Mackenzie’s case, Mackenzie has never cultivated cannabis to sell or distribute, but instead has used the plants for personal medical purposes to make the CBD oil and treat his cancerous tumors.
Iowa’s CBD law protects use of the same marijuana-derived oil that Mackenzie uses, but the law’s narrow focus on treatment of only “intractable epilepsy” does not apply to or legally protect Mackenzie.
District Court Judge Henry Latham ruled in May that Mackenzie is barred from using his condition as a defense in court during his trial as a reason for why he was growing marijuana, the Associated Press reported.
“I’m not allowed to give proof why I was using,” Mackenzie told the Quad-City Times.
So many at fault here — the prosecutor, for cruelly bringing this case in the first place; the legislature, for passing these laws; the judge, for refusing to let the jury hear about Mackenzie’s condition. And of course there are the drug warriors in general, who are willing to tolerate the occasional gunning down of a man in his own home or imprisoning of a suffering, lesion-covered cancer patient in order to demonstrate their opposition to getting high.
Can you imagine the horrors of a man with terrible, painful tumors inhaling the smoke from an organic plant in order to cope with the pain? Yay, drug war!
The total number of marijuana arrests in the United States, which rose dramatically from about 288,000 in 1991 to a peak of 873,000 in 2007, has declined since then, reaching 750,000 in 2012. But according to a new analysisby Jon Gettman, a former national director of NORML who is now a professor of criminal justice at Shenandoah University in Virginia, arrest rates have continued to rise in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, the number of arrests per 100,000 residents more than doubled between 1991 and 2012. The overwhelming majority of those arrests (88 percent in 2012) involved simple possession, indicating that consumers have borne the brunt of this cannabis crackdown. Yet the huge increase in pot bustsdoes not seemto have had much of a deterrent effect.
According to National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), the number of people who reported using marijuana in the previous year rose and fell through the 1990s as arrests steadily climbed. In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which began in 2002, that number was fairly flat until 2009, despite continued increases in arrests. It rose steadily from 2009 through 2012, the last year for which data are available. In theMonitoring the Future Study, annual prevalence of marijuana use by high school seniors rose from 24 percent in 1991 to 36 percent in 2012. This does not look like a drug policy that is working.
Actually, whether drug policy is “working” is completely subjective. Criminal organizations, so-called “private” prisons, lawyers, and police departments - among many other groups - all rely on prohibition for their own success…
Nearly a century ago, the immortal Albert Jay Nock decanted one of the most potent condemnations of prohibition ever committed to print. Nock described the prohibitionist impulse as “simply unworthy of a free people, and, being unworthy [is] soon found intolerable.” He rebuked prohibitionists for their “hatreds, fanaticisms, inaccessibility to ideas … inflamed and cancerous interest in the personal conduct of others …. hysterical disregard of personal rights [and their] pure faith in force….” Those traits, he concluded, “characterize and animate a civilization that the general experience of mankind at once condemns as impossible, and as hateful as it is impossible.”
The prohibitionist is an instinctive authoritarian and self-enraptured bully determined to cleanse the world of conduct he considers offensive, no matter the cost. At antipodes is the bootlegger, an entrepreneur in the original sense of the word — someone who takes risks in order to provide goods to willing customers in mutually beneficial transactions.
During the past two weeks, while examining the affairs of the prohibitionist clique afflicting my beloved Treasure Valley, I re-read Memoirs of an Oregon Moonshiner, in which Ray Nelson described what it was like to be involved in the “illegal manufacture and delivery” of whiskey in Malheur County during the period of official derangement known as alcohol prohibition. While contemporary prohibitionists obsess about a different roster of proscribed substances, little else has changed.
Like countless others, Nelson — a World War I veteran and cowboy by training and inclination — got involved in the manufacture and “illegal delivery” of a controlled substance out of economic necessity. During a business trip to Vale in 1923, Nelson and his first partner were ratted out by an informant, the type of person “which Vale was accursed with,” and then arrested by “three old ex-barflies” who had been deputized by the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office.”
Nelson and his friend pleaded guilty to “possession of whiskey” in the hope that as first-time offenders they would receive leniency. Instead, the Justice of the Peace, who “looked at us with a hangman’s-gallows look on his mug,” sent them to jail for ninety days and imposed a $300 fine — a considerable sum at the time.
After it was made clear that the judge and his fellow parasites were interested only in the fine, and would commute the jail term if it were paid, Nelson and his colleague — in an entirely admirable display of contemptuous defiance — refused to pay the ransom and rejected offers by their friends to pay it on their behalf. Once he was set free, Nelson resumed his career, providing a high-quality product for willing customers at a reasonable price. Nelson would eventually serve time in prison after the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and district attorney struck a deal with an ex-convict to testify against the bootlegger.
Manufacturing and selling alcohol in defiance of what the government pretended was the “law” was never a crime. Attempting to suppress that activity created an environment in which actual crime metastasized. While honest and honorable businessmen who defied prohibition to make a modest living, “Crooked county and state officials were getting rich from it,” Nelson observed. The same was true of politically protected gangsters in major cities who, in collusion with bureaucrats and law enforcement officers, “branched out into other rackets such as extortion, kidnapping, and bank robbery.”
“I was never a criminal, so I never shall reform,” Nelson testified decades later, long after Prohibition ended. “Robbing, stealing, killing, swindling, and the like are something I never did believe in. I hate and despise anybody who goes in for anything like that and want to see them justly prosecuted. Those who bucked the prohibition law were the same stock of people who, back in Colonial days, comprised the Boston Tea Party … people who had nerve enough to contest a law that was a direct infringement on their rights.”
Cop Rats Out His Daughter-in-Law After Helping Her Grow Marijuana for His Cancer-Stricken Granddaughter →
After her 7-year-old daughter, Liza, was diagnosed with an aggressive and generally fatal kind of brain tumor in 2011, Jennifer Scherr decided to treat the cancer with cannabis oil. At the time marijuana was not legal for medical use in Illinois, although a law authorizing a pilot program took effect this year. Scherr’s father-in-law, Curtis Scherr, a Chicago police officer, nevertheless agreed to help her grow marijuana in the hope of prolonging his granddaughter’s life. He obtained the high-intensity light bulbs Jennifer needed and stopped by the house periodically to check on the grow operation. But about a week after Liza died in July 2012, Curtis ratted out her grieving mother, filing a search warrant application in which he reported having seen 50 marijuana plants in Jennifer’s basement. A state judge issued a warrant, which a dozen or so DEA agents used to search Jennifer’s house on July 19. They did not find any contraband, since Jennifer had discarded the plants after Liza’s death.
Between Curtis’s marijuana cultivation assistance and his appalling betrayal of his daughter-in-law there was considerable acrimony over funeral plans, which seems to have been the officer’s motive in seeking the search warrant. But according to a ruling issued last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, the search did not violate Jennifer’s Fourth Amendment rights. Regardless of his motive, the court said, Curtis had probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime would be discovered in a search of Jennifer’s home, since marijuana was at the time illegal for all uses under both state and federal law.
Judge Richard Posner conceded that ”Curtis’s behavior, which culminated in the DEA’s search of his daughter-in-law’s house, was, if it was as the complaint describes it, atrocious.” Furthermore, the officer’s failure to disclose his relationship to the suspect made his warrant application “misleadingly incomplete.” Had Curtis been more forthcoming, Posner suggested, the search probably never would have happened:
Curtis was concealing from the judge asked to issue the search warrant information that if disclosed in the affidavit might well have doomed the application. Had the affidavit stated that the suspected possessor of the 50 marijuana plants was the affiant’s own daughter-in-law, the judge would almost certainly have asked Curtis what was going on that would induce him to accuse his own daughter-in-law of criminal behavior, and upon learning the details the judge probably would have told Curtis to “work things out” privately—that this wasn’t a proper matter for a criminal proceeding.
Still, Posner wrote, “the law is settled…that a police officer’s motive in applying for a warrant does not invalidate the warrant.” He called that “a sensible rule, though distasteful when applied in a case like this.” He added that Jennifer probably would have more success in pressing a state claim against Curtis for intentional infliction of emotional distress, since “there is little doubt (always assuming the truth of the allegations in the complaint) that Curtis Scherr intended to inflict severe emotional distress on his daughter-in-law and succeeded in doing so.”
SWAT teams, originally intended for special situations involving hostages, active shooters, or riots, today are routinely used to execute drug searches. Examining a sample of more than 800 SWAT deployments by 20 law enforcement agencies in 2011 and 2012, the ACLU found that 79 percent involved searches, typically for drugs. Research by Eastern Kentucky University criminologist Peter Kraska has yielded similar numbers.
These operations are inherently dangerous, especially since armed men breaking into a house while the occupants are sleeping can easily be mistaken for burglars, with deadly consequences for cops, occupants, or both. Even when no one dies or suffers serious injuries, SWAT raids feature the destruction of property (starting with broken doors and smashed windows), the manhandling and detention of innocent people, and the more-than-occasional killing of beloved family pets. All things to be avoided, you might think, unless absolutely necessary.
Police typically justify no-knock raids and heavy firepower by claiming the target is apt to be armed. That is what they said about Thonetheva, the Phonesavanhs’ nephew, who had no weapons when he was arrested at a different location on the day of the raid that sent [19-month-old] Bou Bou to the hospital [from a flash-bang grenade that went off in his crib]. (There also were no weapons in his parents’ house, where the Phonesavanhs were staying.) In the ACLU’s sample that sort of outcome was common: In at least one-third of cases where a weapon was believed to be present, none was found. Police records indicated recovery of a weapon in one out of three such cases. In the rest, the records did not address that point.
The ACLU, like my former Reason colleague Radley Balko, argues that the militarization of American policing has resulted from an excessively literal understanding of the War on Drugs, training that encourages cops to “adopt a ‘warrior’ mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies,” and the Pentagon’s promiscuous sharing of equipment with local police departments, which explains why no town is too little or quiet for an armored personnel carrier. The report recommends specific local, state, and federal reforms aimed at reversing this trend, including greater transparency, better record keeping, stricter standards for SWAT deployments, statutes requiring the suppression of evidence gathered in violation of the knock-and-announce rule, and an end to the sharing of military equipment.
The ACLU mentions declining public support for the War on Drugs as one reason to reconsider the ferocity with which it is waged. But while de-escalation would be welcome, it does not address the fundamental immorality of responding to peaceful transactions with guns and handcuffs. Even if reforms like those recommended by the ACLU encourage police to be more judicious in their use of force, unjustifiable violence will always be a defining feature of drug prohibition.
An innocent woman hid in a closet when armed strangers unexpectedly broke into her apartment. While cowering in fear, she was discovered by one of the intruders — actually a police officer raiding the wrong address — who promptly shot her in the chest after opening the closet door.
The botched raid was part of a joint narcotics investigation by the Nassau County Police Force Bureau of Special Operations (BSO), the Town of Hempstead Police Department, and the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.
When officers had reason to suspect that someone was in possession of arbitrarily banned substances, a search warrant was signed by a New York judge, authorizing police to break down the suspect’s door at any time they felt appropriate without warning. The no-knock warrant was “justified by the possibility that evidence would be destroyed,” according to official documents.
The warrant left off a crucial fact. The target address was a residential property that contained 2 separate apartments. The downstairs and upstairs of the property were separated, and contained completely unrelated tenants. However, the warrant broadly (and negligently) granted police the authorization to search the entire premises without distinction — even though it included the home of a woman not suspected of any crime.
The raid team was dispatched to the property on May 13, 2010. It consisted of Officers Michael Capobianco, Carl Campbell, Joseph Grella, Dwight Blankenship, and Nassau County Police Sargent Hermann. Also present was Thomas Bidell, an investigator with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.
The men proceeded to use a battering ram to breach the door of the downstairs apartment, which belonged to the suspect of their investigation. Officers charged in with rifles and began searching the house. When they encountered an impassable staircase, one of them yelled, “Alternate breach!” and the men exited the home and proceeded with breaching the basement and upper apartment in a similar fashion.
Iyanna Davis, age 22 at the time, resided in the upper-floor apartment and was hiding in a closet after hearing the violent commotion in the downstairs living unit. She stated that she did not know the intruders were police officers and assumed the home was being targeted by criminal home invaders.
The officers had split up at this point and only Officers Capobianco and Campbell were on the upper floor searching Davis’ apartment. Versions of what happened next varied between police and the innocent tenant. The result was Officer Capobianco firing his rifle at Ms. Davis, striking her with a single bullet that traveled through her breast, abdomen, and both thighs.
Police made various claims about the shooting, including an assertion that Ms. Davis had jumped out of the closet, as well as another version that claimed she held the closet door shut as cops tried to open it from the outside, causing clumsy officer Capobianco to fall down and negligently discharge his rifle. The victim’s story, however, included her pleading for her life.
“I told them I was afraid and do not shoot me, and one officer screamed at me to put my hands above my head,” Ms. Davis said in a deposition. “That’s when I heard the shot and I felt myself sit down because the force actually knocked me back on my backside.”
The indisputable facts of the case held that Ms. Davis had nothing to do with the investigation, yet she ended up being shot while unarmed in her own home by a police officer who should never have been there. Despite this breathtaking display of negligence and incompetence, the department investigated itself and cleared its officers of any wrongdoing.
>”the department investigated itself and cleared its officers of any wrongdoing.”
Finally, after wrangling in the legal system for over 4 years, Nassau County agreed to settle with Ms. Davis to the tune of $650,000. As part of the settlement, the police internal investigation was officially sealed. According to Charles Horn, Ms. Davis’ attorney, this was to prevent its many “inaccuracies” from coming to light, which were falsely presented to convey justification for shooting an unarmed woman.
Taxpayers footed the bill, and no police officers received any sort of reprimand or termination.
Police ineptitude and corruption are practically inevitable, but they are enabled and magnified in scope by the existence of intrusive laws and widespread militaristic enforcement techniques. An end to the cruel Drug War and the overuse of no-knock raids would prevent situations like this from ever occurring.
>”Taxpayers footed the bill, and no police officers received any sort of reprimand or termination.”
Texas law enforcement are continuing to enrich themselves using a little-known legal doctrine known as civil forfeiture, according to a new series of investigative reports. Under civil forfeiture, property can be forfeited even if its owner has never been charged with a crime. In these proceedings, accused criminals have more rights than innocent owners and the government sues the property, not its owner. These cases can be so baffling, one Texas Supreme Court Justice recently compared civil forfeiture to Alice in Wonderland and the works of Franz Kafka. But civil forfeiture isn’t just a quirky curiosity—it’s a powerful incentive for law enforcement to take millions.
Last month, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that the District Attorney’s Office in Tarrant County, Texas seized $3.5 million, plus almost 250 cars and 440 computers in fiscal year 2013, roughly equal to about 10 percent of its budget. Of the property seized, almost $845,000 was spent on salaries for 16 employees at the office. By comparison, only $53,000 went to “six nonprofits that benefit victims or prosecution efforts.” The county’s narcotics unit spent an even greater proportion of forfeiture funds on salaries. Last year, the unit seized $666,427 in cash and used $426,058 to pay salaries.
Even more property was forfeited by participating in a federal program known as “equitable sharing.” By partnering with a federal agency, local and state law enforcement can keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds from a forfeited property. Incredibly, police can collaborate even if doing so would circumvent their own states’ protections for property owners. …
In Texas, law enforcement can keep up to 90 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property. That clearly affects police priorities and provides an incentive to pursue cases rich in assets. In another article, the Star-Telegram delved into the forfeiture battle that ensued after law enforcement busted a low-level drug ring at Texas Christian University (TCU). Police arrested twenty-three people for selling marijuana, pills and other controlled substances. Most of those arrested were TCU students, including four members of the football team. No one went to prison; they got probation, deferred adjudication or the charges were dismissed. Others received punishments as low as $300 in court costs.
Yet by using civil forfeiture, police seized over $300,000 worth of property from the students, including 15 cars, trucks and SUVs valued at more than $250,000; over $46,000 in cash; and over $17,000 from laptops, iPads, iPhones and the like. As the paper noted, “The items were seized before formal charges were filed and months before any convictions.” But according to an after-action report issued by the Fort Worth Police Department, the drugs seized in the investigation only had an estimated street value of $29,000. So the property seized was worth far more than the drugs that were actually taken off the streets.
Civil forfeiture creates a “perverse incentive” and “skews law enforcement priorities,” noted Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “It’s one of the worst stepchildren of the war on some drugs.”
Among the TCU cases, cash and electronic devices were typically forfeited to the state. As for the cars, some students were able to retrieve them, but only after months of waiting and negotiations. One student paid $7,500 in an “economic agreement” with Tarrant County to retrieve his Cadillac Escalade. Another person sent $17,500 to the county’s narcotics unit to get back his Ford F-150.
Across the state, pursuing forfeiture cases related to cannabis has generated millions for Texas police. Between 2002 and 2012, the federal government processed $64.3 million in cash and other valuables in civil and criminal marijuana forfeitures in Texas. According to the Wall Street Journal, that amount is the fourth highest in the nation.
Gun-wielding, black-suited law enforcers busted into a home with a battering ram, terrifying everyone inside and leaving one man dead. Newly released helmet-cam video of the incident shows in graphic detail how this violent no-knock raid produced yet another casualty in the vicious War on Drugs.
The raid took place on May 16th, 2013. So-called “Zero Tolerance Officers” from the Fort Worth Police Department staged raid on a suspected “drug house” with the intent of rounding up and imprisoning people for getting high without government permission. Police sought and received permission from Tarrant County Magistrate Cheyenne Minick to break into the home with no warning in order to surprise everyone inside.
As the video shows, sometime after 3:35 p.m., men in helmets and black uniforms sprinted through the yard with shotguns and pistols already drawn. A cop with a large steel battering ram instantly went to the front door and smashed it in without hesitation. From a first-person perspective, the video shows cops running into the home, aggressively screaming and aiming guns.
In a video obtained by WFAA, an officer holding a shotgun literally sweeps his barrel past everyone he sees in the living room. First a large man sleeping on the couch, then a tiny female child dressed in blue, a woman in purple, and three men seated at a round table.
“When they came in, they had their weapons drawn like we were members of a drug cartel,” a woman who was in the house told the Star-Telegraph.
Jermaine “DJ” Darden, 34, who had been startled awake by the intrusion, received particular attention from police. Darden, a large man who weighed over 300 pounds, was having physical difficulties after being forced to the ground with several officers on top of him. He was physically unable to breathe in that position due to his asthma condition, heart disease, and the weight of the police officers.
“They physically pulled him off the couch because, like I said, he was asleep,” explained his mother, Donna Randle,to CBS-DFW. “They pulled him off the couch and they tried to put him on his stomach. He can’t breathe on his stomach. He don’t even lie on the bed on his stomach.”
Officers characterized his futile struggle to breathe as being “met with resistance.” At least five officers piled on top of him, exacerbating his breathing problem.
Witnesses said he was not resisting at all, only trying to breathe.
“He had his hands behind his back the whole time. But me and about five other people were hollering the whole time, ‘He cannot breathe like that. Please handcuff him on his side,’” said Randle. “But they ignored us and Tased him.”
Officers successfully handcuffed Mr. Darden, and eventually propped his limp body up into the sitting position. But he didn’t have long to live.
“They were pounding on his chest and squeezing on an air bag,” said Crippen, 29. “I saw his arm fall limp and a police officer place it back on his chest, and I thought to myself, ‘He’s dead.’”
Crippen commented on the lack of urgency to reach the hospital: “They sat in the ambulance about 10 minutes before it moved. And then it rolled away, no lights, no sirens.”
Jermaine “DJ” Darden was pronounced dead at the hospital. He left behind a wife and 2 teenage sons. He was found him with nothing illegal in his possession.
“No, he didn’t die of natural causes, because if that’s the case, he would have [already] been dead,” his mother said. “They gave him a heart attack. They put him into a heart attack.”
Presented with a dismissive explanation for Darden’s death, a grand jury predictably let off the sole unnamed police officer who was reviewed for criminal liability.
The rivers of blood spilled in such senseless situations provides us with the most compelling and personal reason to end the violent Drug War. None of this would have the chance to happen if the government wasn’t fixated on micromanaging people’s personal decisions, sending enforcers who are prepared to kill or be killed in the name of senseless prohibition laws. (See more Drug War casualties covered by Police State USA).
Note in the video how the media, as is typical, peddles the police’s spin.
At one point, the “reporter” quotes the police report that claims Darden was “actively resisting officers,” and then, as proof, he shows a two second clip of Darden and says “You can see him struggling with police here.” Of course„ that “struggling” is merely his attempts to survive.
Matthew Heller returned to his truck after attending a concert to find someone had broken into it and torn it apart. He also found a note from the Tampa, Florida, police department claiming credit for the destruction. The cop who left the note said they notice a strong smell of marijuana coming from the truck, though they did not actually find any. A police spokesman said the search was perfectly legal.
You can just smell the freedom.