Editorial: Real World Consequences 6/16/06

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David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

David Borden
One of the regularly repeating outrages in the drug war is that of innocent people terrorized, physically harmed or killed in drug raids gone bad. Retired Boston minister Accelyne Williams, felled by a heart attack after a SWAT-style squadron battered his door down and tackled him to the floor; 23-year old Anthony Diotaiuto, shot ten times by a SWAT team in Sunrise, Florida; Harlem's Alberta Spruill, dead from a heart attack after police detonated a flash grenade in her home; many others, from many places, their lives and deaths touching many others far and wide.

The moral equation seems clear to me: No-knock drug raids are demonstrably dangerous, carrying a predictable risk of injury or death to innocent or otherwise undeserving victims. Therefore, they should almost never be carried out -- police should knock and take great care when entering a home, except in situations of the most exceptional need (such as those involving hostages).

Nevertheless, police forces around the country continue with their immorally reckless ways despite the continuing carnage. This week's Supreme Court ruling, then, paving the way for even more such behavior, is especially unfortunate. Though there is still technically a distinction between regular and "no-knock" warrants, a majority on the court has decided there should be no penalty -- no exclusion of evidence -- when police forces without authorization to do a no-knock raid go ahead and do one. Without such a penalty, and with no criminal penalties attaching to levels of recklessness by police officers that would land any ordinary citizen behind bars or in civil court facing liability of millions, the problem is bound to increase.

Though rank-and-file law enforcers bear moral responsibility for their actions, as we all do, the greater blame lies with the leadership. It's hard to tell a group of people that drugs are destroying society and that they are charged with fighting a "war" to stop them, to give them heavy weaponry and special forces-style training, and then expect them to reliably keep it in hand and not over-apply the use of force in the ways they've been taught to do. When the courts then say it's okay for them to break even the court's own rules, well, what's a nation to do? None of us are safe in our homes, thanks to the unfortunately still vital drug exception to the US Constitution.

Prohibition's ravages probably won't barge their way into the home of Samuel Alito or the other members of the 5-4 majority who plunged the drug war knife yet deeper into the heart of our freedoms. Hopefully history will remember their love of extended government power and its application without regard to the tragically obvious consequences. By not recognizing the right to be safe in one's home from fatal attack by the state, they have failed in their moral obligation to stop the other branches of government from violating us.

This means the burden is on us to call for a stop to it -- to not tolerate the reckless disregard for our safety and demand responsible conduct from the agents of the state who work for us.

-- END --
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Issue #440 -- 6/16/06

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Editorial: Real World Consequences | Feature: Death Toll Climbs as Fentanyl-Laced Heroin ODs Spread | Feature: Among Whites, Imprisoning Drug Users a Minority Opinion, Survey Finds | Feature: Industrial Hemp Push Underway in California, North Dakota | Offer and Appeal: Important New Legalization Video and Drug War Facts Book Available | Book Offer: Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke | Alert: Important Medical Marijuana Vote Coming Up in Congress -- Your Help Needed | Follow-up: Colombia Amendment Results | Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle? | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Upholds Searches Without Notice | Methamphetamine: Epidemic? What Epidemic? Study Asks | Law Enforcement: Justice for Sale in Washington Border County | Europe: New Italian Government to Move to "Reduce Damage" of Tough Drug Law | Europe: Britain to Reclassify Methamphetamine as Class A Drug | Canada: Federal Medical Marijuana Program a Flop, AIDS Society Says | Weekly: This Week in History | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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