Feature: On the Anniversary of Kathryn Johnston's Death, Poll Finds Most Americans Oppose Use of SWAT-Style Tactics in Routine Drug Raids

A year ago this week, 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston was gunned down by Atlanta narcotics officers when she opened fire on them as they kicked down her door in a "no-knock" drug raid. The killing has had immense reverberations in the Atlanta area, especially since it opened a window on corrupt and questionable police practices in the drug squad.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/kathrynjohnston.jpg
Kathryn Johnston
While the Johnston killing rocked the Atlanta area, it also brought the issue of aggressive drug war police tactics to the forefront. Each year, SWAT teams across the country conduct some 40,000 raids, according to estimates, many of them directed at drug offenders. The tactic, where heavily armed police in military-style attire break down doors, toss flash-bang grenades, and generally behave as if they are searching for insurgents in Baghdad, has become routine, and is the stuff of various TV reality shows.

But if the raids are popular with the viewers of the likes of DALLAS SWAT, they are not necessarily as popular with the American public. According to a poll of 1,028 likely voters commissioned by StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) and conducted by Zogby International in October, a solid majority of respondents said such tactics were not justified for routine drug raids.

Here is the exact question asked: "Last year 92-year old Kathryn Johnston was killed by Atlanta police serving a drug search warrant at an incorrect address supplied by an informant. Reports show that police use SWAT teams to conduct raids as often as 40,000 times per year, often for low-level drug enforcement. Do you agree or disagree that police doing routine drug investigations in non-emergency situations should make use of aggressive entry tactics such as battering down doors, setting off flash-bang grenades, or conducting searches in the middle of the night?"

Nearly two-thirds -- 65.8% -- said police should not routinely use such tactics. With minor variations, that sentiment held across geographic, demographic, religious, ideological, and partisan lines.

Opposition to the routine use of SWAT tactics for drug law enforcement ranged from 70.7% in the West to 60.5% in the East. Residents of large cities (60.7%), small cities (71.2%), the suburbs (66.7%), and rural areas (65.0%), all opposed the routine use of SWAT tactics.

Among Democrats, 75.1% opposed the raids; among independents the figure was 65.5%. Even in the Republican ranks, a majority -- 56% -- opposed the raids. Across ideological lines, 85.3% of self-identified progressives opposed the raids, as did 80.8% of liberals, 62.9% of moderates, and 68.9% of libertarians. Even people describing themselves as conservative or very conservative narrowly opposed the routine use of SWAT tactics, with 51.5% of the former and 52.5% of the latter saying no. Among African Americans, 83% oppose the practice.

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SWAT raid in Texas
"These findings don't surprise me," said University of Nebraska-Omaha criminologist Samuel Walker, a leading policing expert. "When you ask global questions about crime, people say one thing, but when the question is framed so as to clarify the practice, as this one was, people have a sense of what sort of emergency situations might call for special methods and what sort of situations are routine and could be handled without SWAT-style tactics. I find it hopeful that people seem to have such a clear sense of what is and is not appropriate," he said.

"We're pleased but also not surprised to get such a good response on this," said DRCNet executive director David Borden, who authored the question. "It's just not a hard sell to say that people shouldn't get shot, burned or traumatized in their homes when there's any other viable way of handling a situation." The organization is planning to do more, he says, and has posted an information page on the issue at http://stopthedrugwar.org/policeraids.

"If you believe that the criminal justice system is 100% perfect, you tend to support the system, but with these drug raids, there have been just too many mistakes made, too many wrong doors kicked in, too many innocent people killed," said Peter Christ, a former New York police captain who spent 20 years in policing before retiring and becoming a founding member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "People understand that, and they realize that grandma down in Atlanta could have been them."

The real question, Walker said, was how to translate public opinion into policy changes. "I only wish this could be translated into the political realm," he said.

For Christ, changing police practices and drug policies is a slow, even generational process of education. The movement to reform the drug laws, he said, is akin to the movement for women's rights. "None of the people who started that movement in the 1830s lived to cast a vote," he said, "but in the end, they triumphed."

In Atlanta, the outrageous conduct of the narcotics officers involved in the Johnston case has led to changes, at least for now. They told a judge they had an informant who had bought crack cocaine at Johnston's home. That was a lie. They shot at the elderly woman protecting her home 39 times after she managed to squeeze off one shot from an old pistol. They handcuffed her as she lay dying. They planted marijuana in her basement after the fact. They tried, also after the fact, to get one of their informants to say he had supplied the information, but that informant instead went to the FBI.

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2005 rave raid in Utah (courtesy Portland IndyMedia)
Two of the officers involved in the killing were ordered to prison this week pending sentencing on involuntary manslaughter and civil rights violations. A third has an April trial date.

The Johnston killing has also rocked the Atlanta Police Department. The police chief disbanded the entire drug squad for months, tightened up the rules for seeking search warrants, especially "no-knock" warrants, and instituted new policies forcing narcotics officers to rotate out on a regular basis. A year-long FBI investigation into the department continues.

But across the country, the Johnston case was little more than a blip on the radar, and the SWAT-style raids continue. "I haven't noticed any real change anywhere outside of Atlanta," said Radley Balko, an editor at Reason magazine and a policy analyst specializing in civil liberties issues who authored the definitive report on the rise of the contemporary SWAT phenomenon, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Policing in America. "The pace of these raids has been about the same this year as last."

And, as Balko noted in a FoxNews.com commentary this week, not only the raids, but the mistakes, some of them fatal, continue:

In February of this year, 16-year-old Daniel Castillo, Jr. was killed in a police raid on his family's home in Texas. Castillo had no criminal record. A SWAT officer broke open the door to the bedroom as Castillo, his sister, and her infant son were sleeping. When Castillo rose from the bed after being awoken to his sister's screams, the SWAT officer shot him in the face.

In March, police in Spring Lake, Minn., acting on an informant's tip, raided the home of Brad and Nicole Thompson. The couple was forced on the ground at gun point and warned by an officer, "If you move, I'll shoot you in the f___ing head." Police had the wrong house.

In June, a 72-year-old woman on oxygen was thrown to the ground at gunpoint in a mistaken drug raid near Durango, Colo.

Balko also pointed to errant drug raids on innocent people in Temecula, CA.; Annapolis, MD.; several incidents in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City; Galliano, LA.; Hendersonville, NC.; Ponderay, ID; Stockton, CA.; Pullman, WA.; Baltimore; Wilmington, DE.; Jacksonville, FL; Alton, KS; Merced County, CA; and Atlanta, GA. And that's just this year.

Turning the juggernaut around is a daunting task. It would require changes to the policies and practices of hundreds of separate law enforcement agencies around the country, and that is going to require work at the state and local level.

But there are some limited prospects for change at the federal level. In June, the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security held hearings on police militarization, and, thanks in part to Balko's testimony, this year's crime bill currently contains some language reflecting reforms recommended in Overkill that would limit the circumstances in which high levels of force can be used. Still, Balko said, it is unclear if that language will make it into the final bill.

At the least, Balko was able to inform committee Chair Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) that some of the money allocated for Bill Clinton's community policing COPS program had gone to establish SWAT teams. When a woman in the gallery asked for renewed funding for COPS, Balko pointed out that fact.

"Are you telling me that the COPs grants we handed out in the 90s were actually used to start SWAT teams?" Scott asked in surprise.

Balko confirmed that was indeed the case.

"Well that's certainly not what we had in mind," Scott replied.

According to Balko, at least 40 innocent people have been killed in forced entry drug raids in recent years. No one knows how many more innocents have been injured by testosterone-crazed police or had their property wantonly destroyed in such raids. And no one is even counting how many people -- innocent, guilty, family members -- have been needlessly traumatized by the jackboot kicking the door in at 4:00am and all that follows. And most of the "guilty" parties are mere low-level offenders, and by law presumed innocent until proven guilty.

If the politicians and law enforcement listen to the public, such tactics will become a thing of the past.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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If police know so much

that they are confident that drugs are in a house then why don't they know if and when there are guns in the house? They justify the heavy handed SWAT incursions on the basis of not knowing if there are guns on the place. But they are sure there are drugs.

Lee's Summit, Missouri (AKA: Nazi Germany)

I was a victim of a "no knock" warrant based on unreliable information given by some rumor filled high school girls i've never met. They murdered my best friend (my dog of 9 years who previously saved my life in a house fire) and pushed my fiance down the stairs. They made me watch my best friend suffer for 10 minutes until he passed on. This was part of my family (the best part) who had stood by me through thick and thin. If killing a police dog is considered killing an officer, then I what these "peace officers" charged with second degree murder for killing a member of my family. I was held on a "Patriot Act" 24 hour hold then released "pending further investigation". By the way, this occurred this week. I don't know if I believed in heaven & hell before this, but I certainly do now. My best friend is in heaven and those officers will burn in hell if there is a just god.

borden's picture

seeking victims to work with us

Dear friend:

Thank you for sharing information on this horrible experience with us. If you are willing to be part of our efforts, please contact me at [email protected]. The same goes for any other victims of bad raids who are reading this.

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC
http://stopthedrugwar.org

Assault on Democracy

I’ve never heard of a “Patriot Act 24-hour hold”. If that’s what those jerks told you, then you need to contact your local chapter of the ACLU, as well as David. Any unauthorized use of the Patriot Act at this point in our spiraling decline to a police state requires an urgent national response.

An additional note regarding your best friend, the courts in many states tend to regard abuse or unnecessary use of force of this type while being mindful of the fact that 85-percent of Americans regard their ‘best friend’ to also be a member of their family. You have a lot of people on your side. Please don’t let anybody involved in this police crime go unaccountable.

Giordano

Good raids?

Is there such a thing? Suppose you happen to have some prohibited vegetation in the garden. Then one day you hear a helicopter hovering 30 feet above your home. Next there are 10 ,maybe 20 "agents ", all around your place. These agents do not have a warrant yet , they can't bust on in.So a waiting game of intimidation begins while the search for a willing judge to sign commences. This continues for about 8 hours because the property owner will not "cooperate" as suggested by heavily armed persuaders. Then the cornered homeowner hears a crash as the doors go down. Well you know the rest ...nobody died though. Happens all the time right? Thats a "good" bust? 829,000 arrests for a weed in 2006! Whats that got to do with FREEDOM or the presumption of privacy?

Two years ago my house was

Two years ago my house was raided by our local"Major Crimes Task Force". I was in my garage with a friend when suddenly we heard a "boom" that could be heard by people 5 miles away. The explosion was not from flash grenades. It was from the sound of my front door being blown off my house. It flew 30' into the street. Then we heard them beating on the garage door and screaming to let them in. I lifted the garage door up about tweo feet and went back and sat on my chair next to my friend. We both had our arms and hands straight in the air. But that meant nothing to them they charged at us knocking us both off our chairs and onto the cement floor. I had someones boot firmly planted on the side of my head to hold me down. They were screaming at my buddy to stop resisting while they beat her senseless. Believe me. She was not resisting in anyway. Ther were at least 8 of them and all heavily armed with masks covering their faces.I am over 50 years old and only weigh 130 lbs. Was all this really necassary when we already had our hands in the air? In the mean time in the house my wife was just getting out of the shower. there were at least 40 male officers in the house and they would not give her anything to put on. Not even a towel to. cover herself up. When I was marched into the house. There she was naked in front of God and everone else. The explosion at the front door destroyed everything 15' into the living room. A china hutch was reduced to spinters no longer than 4". We later put the entire hutch into two cardboard ap[ple boxes. Therer were shards or shrapnel; from the front door sticking all over into the ceiling. On was over 4' long. It would have killed anyone if they would have been in the front room. It was wintertime and by now my wife was freezing to death. She asked them to close the door.She was in the kitchen and didn't know about the door being blowen off the house.They laughed and joked abot it and thought it was pretty funny. When they were done breaking everything we owned. They had fround a small baggie of pot seeds that belonged to our 19 son who had been killed in a car accident two years earlier. A couple of pipes. And a baggie that had been lost in a lazy boy chair for only God knows how long with half gram of meth in it. Worth maybe $30.00. For that whooping drug seizure it cost $7,500 bail. $5,000 for two layers. Over $3,000 in fines and fees. Got kicked out of the house by the landlord. The landlord was my boss. So I got fired from my job. My wife got 14 days in jail and she had no priors. And she had to do 30 days work detail with the Sherrifs work program. And 3 years with Adult Probation and Parole. I got a plea of obeyance from the court cuase she was willing to take the fall for the "Large" amount of drugs. And they wonder why for six months I put a sign on my back door that read. "FUCK THE POLICE"

land of the free

home of the brave/
what a crock! Still fighting Nixon's war on hippies. And Americans wonder why the rest of the world looks at them with disgust.

Two thirds is a "super

Two thirds is a "super majority" in legislative terms, so let us use the power of that super majority -- send a copy of this article to every one of your elected officials at local, state, and federal levels, and your local police department and Sheriff's office. We can stop this travesty of justice if we want, and apparently 2/3 of us do want to stop it. But it takes more than a published poll result to change things, it takes real action, so take a few minutes and email the article to all those who need to see it. Inundate them with the truth of our feelings on this subject and the power of our numbers.

Too many innocent people are killed in these raids; and even when no one is killed, wrong address raid victims never receive a public apology, nor are their homes made whole again by those who broke down the doors, turned the home's contents upside down, and often killed the family pet in the process, these innocent victims never receive any kind of compensation for the atrocities perpetrated upon them. Is this the kind of country you want? If not take action here and now.

DEA is scum

The DEA and anyone else that supports the "war on drugs" should be charged with war crimes asap.
http://libertarianempire.com

Liability

All this happens because of the doctrine of "Sovreign Immunity" -- the SWAT teams and the people behind them are absolved for responsibility for their actions. Authority without responsibility is tyranny. Get rid of this pernicious doctrine, and make the offenders personally responsible in court, and it would go a long way toward curing the problem.

One of the lessons of the Nuremburg trials was that "I was just following orders" is no excuse.

obviously it's the way they phrased the question

Of course people would respond that way, look at the way they prefaced the question, by giving a biased story. If they had given a different story, a story about one of the 39,999 other raids that successfully stopped crack dealers from preying on poor Americans, perhaps the responses would have been different. These folks should have taken a few extra classes in college, perhaps some dealing with the art of "polling"

They probably did go to college

That's where they learned to ask leading questions to get the desired results from their polls. The tactics SWAT teams employ are the safest way to approach the situations given the information they have. The problem is in the information, and in that this whole drug war is misguided.

Crack dealers don't prey on anyone, they supply a product in demand, and without the artificial profits created by the drug prohibition, they might be regular merchants. Though they'd soon be pressed out of the market by big pharma.

borden's picture

nothing biased about our question

Well Sam Walker, one of the nation's top academic experts on policing, whose textbook is widely used in criminal justice courses around the country, and who has studied and reported on the use of SWAT teams for major cities, gave our question strong praise. Does Professor Walker need to take some extra classes too?

The next class that I recommend you to take is civics. All of the victims of these raids are considered innocent by law until proven guilty. Even the ones who are guilty are mostly low-level offenders who can't reasonably be said to be "preying" on poor Americans. (Plus people who buy drugs are making the choice to do so, and they usually regard dealers as helping them get what they want rather than as preying on them.)

You also need to read the question more carefully, as it did not say anything about innocence or even whether people were killed or injured. It asked whether these tactics should be used in routine drug enforcement, and it listed some examples of the tactics that are commonly used and that we want to see mostly stopped. There's nothing biasing about presenting an example of something that can go wrong when those tactics are put to use. I think you should have more faith in people's intelligence that they did not assume death to have been the result in all 40,000 of the raids that happen ever year. But it has happened plenty...

Nothing biased about our question, only about this anonymous comment...

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC
http://stopthedrugwar.org

I knew things were... different in the states, but!

This is absolutely insane. For me, two important pillars of a civilized society are "the principle of proportionality" and that of personal responsibility for your actions.

When people talk about the need to defend democracy, I would normally just ignore it. But this, especially combined with all the other alarm reports coming out of the US lately is a big fat bell of warning. This is about so much more than the drug war, this is about basic principles of a democracy.

39,999 other raids?

And how does the possibility of 39,999 other 'righteous' raids make the 1 confirmed death of an innocent ok?

How many innocent lives need to be ruined or ended before you say enough?

http://www.law.ucla.edu/volokh/guilty.htm

Another victim of the fallout from the war on drugs here..

Reading this article made me smile greatly. As a student pursuing a master's of the Criminal Justice program at the esteemed Eastern Kentucky University (top 5 school in the nation for this degree) I have learned, in great depth, the magnitude of how these ignorant, draconian tactics have affected our justice (or lack thereof) system. Our professors have dealt with situations like these firsthand and one of their foremost teachings is how the war on drugs is a complete charade and an even bigger failure. It's great to know that other minds around the nation feel the same way.
Sadly, I have experienced this sort of thing first hand. My father had worked for 35+ years as an automobile salesman, starting out poor and with nothing. Through years of rigorous work, employing very few people, he eventually became very financially successful. This was the only way of making a living for him in our small, rural Kentucky town. In 2006, he was a candidate in a hotly contested political race in our county, and one of the opponents was indeed my mother's brother. On that windy, March day, my father's business was surrounded by an army of mercenary state policemen and charged with drug trafficking. In less than 24 hours, after finding no propagating evidence at the business, they were able to obtain a search warrant and came into our home and took nothing but a few old, valuable firearms he had collected over the years, and his life savings in cash. Before 8am the next morning, these thugs had managed to obtain warrants to search and seize his safety deposit box contents, and his Cash Deposits at the bank.
In August of '07, he was arrested under the jurisdiction of a federal indictment and is currently incarcerated in Pike County Detention Center in Pikeville, KY. He had what seemed to be a good attorney, that more or less lied and deceived him into pleading under false pretenses. He now is attempting to withdraw his plea and take it in front of a jury after being granted the right to seek new counsel. Now, here I am stuck at school, while my family sits at home with 0 income, while these corrupt, vile state troopers can sit back and enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas while counting the money that my father sweat out over 35 years of hard work and perseverance. Of course this is only the surface, and many other saddening, civil-rights-robbing details lie below. It is the most horrifying, frightening, and gruesome displays of "criminal justice" I have ever seen or heard of in my life.

I have tried bringing publicity to this but our local newspapers are controlled by the people who put this thing in motion, and the ACLU chapter seemingly is not interested in taking part in this. It's so very sad, and what's even worse.. is I feel powerless. If any of you want to read the full story, please visit:

http://corruptinjustice.blogspot.org

Kudos to the writers of this article and to those who conducted this research, as well as all supporters. My hat is off to all of you.

EDIT FOR ABOVE POST

Ok, something happened to my link and my blog is messed up. Anyone who is interested may email me at [email protected] and I will respond. Any and all help is appreciated. Thank you all.

Rambo

A lot of these cops like these raids because they get to dress up in cool gear, carry rifles they normally do not carry, play with night vision, and use explosives. They think it's cool. Seriously, most of these guys make well less than $40,000 a year. Who would do a job like this for the money? Serving the community? Gimme a break. Most do it because they like to bully people and feel all big and tough. They all want to be Rambo.

The fact is that in most localities SWAT training sucks. In fact, most police officers are horribly trained. I am a gun owner, and attend several professional training classes a year for both handguns and AR-15 rifles. Some of the folks taking the classes are former law enforcement and one thing they repeatedly state is how poorly trained they were. As civiliians taking these classes they are better trained than most local SWAT teams (their words, not mine). In fact, some of the tactics and techniques taught to some SWAT teams result in horrible and unsafe firearms handling practices. You want guys busting in doors that don't even keep their fingers off the trigger until they are ready to fire? Get startled and jerk the trigger firing a round at whatever your rifle happened to be pointed at. Nice.

Police justify these heavy-handed tactics under the "it's for officer safety" argument. Unfortunately, I don't view their safety as any more important than mine. That is why I choose to be armed and well trained - so that I can protect myself. I fear that if cops executed a mistaken "no knock" raid on my house we'd end up with an pleasant situation, just like this poor 91 year old woman (she is to be commended for attempting to protect herself, BTW). As a citizen, you can't just assume everyone who busts down your door is a police officer.

I understand that no-knock raids may sometimes be necessary. However, the standards for executing said raids should be high. It should not be simply the word of some informant (who's probably a criminal anyway). And police should be held accountable. Just last week in Lawrenceburg, Indiana the local SWAT gestapo tossed tear gas into the wrong house, ruining everything in the house. Single mother of two, everything ruined, cops said she could clean up on her own. Apparently, no liability. Jack-booted thugs, plain and simple.

Above the Law

The death of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston is shocking. The fact that the narcotics officers planted marijuana in her basement is even worse.Kathryn's death was obviously a mistake. A terrible result of bad policy and bad police work. The planting of evidence was not a mistake, and I find it particularly disturbing that that these officers were READY and willing to defile the memory of the grandmother they had just slaughtered by making her out to be a drug dealer post mortem. The people we trust to keep law and order should not be above the law, or have the "above the law" mindset. Honestly, what can you do if you get framed by the police? How many other people were framed by these people?

OH......

We haven't seen anything yet....it's going to get A LOT worse.......The American experiment is over....the people failed....the elites are right....the majority of sheeple really are too stooopid to live their own lives!

Duhhhh...freedom? What's that?

Regardless of what I have said...I do still believe those of us that do have a clue still need to fight against evil....but with the realization that it will not matter.

Lord help us all.......

Wanted - A brilliant strategy

As I see it, we lack a strategy to overcome the principle road block to the end of this persecution.

First, the "drug war" is really a struggle over marijuana prohibition. They like to lump all the drugs together to confuse and cast guilt on marijuana by "association." And it has worked well.

But 100 million Americans have consumed marijuana. There are likely about 30 million current consumers. Any group of such numbers should have trashed the fraud decades ago. And ending marijuana prohibition would most likely knock the stuffing out of the whole war on recreational drug consumers.

However, as Richard Cowan says, marijuana prohibition is the only major issue where the key stakeholders - marijuana consumers - are excluded from the discussion. If a marijuana consumer dares to speak out, they are targeted by police and driven from professional level employment. Yes, there are a few exceptions. People who are in unique employment positions, or retired, who can speak without losing everything they've got.

The fascists seized the government with the election of Ronald Reagan. It was such a huge turning point, I'm beginning to suspect that ceremony. They pumped up marijuana prohibition and used it as an effective tool to begin the removal of our freedoms and rights.

Clinton was as big a part of the problem as the rest. He gave us McCaffrey as a drug czar and elevated the Inquisition to record heights. To add insult to injury, as he left office he mumbled that he thought marijuana should be legalized. Thanks a lot, Bill! I wish someone would ask Hillary if she agrees with her husband's statement.

So now the partial job of the destruction of our freedom is being completed with the war on terrorism. Still, if we were to somehow free those 30 to a 100 million people from the gags so cleverly placed on them, they would consititute an unstopable force. Not only would they end marijuana prohibition and the whole fraud of all prohibition, they would likely be enough to also stop the fraudulent "war on terror" and shrink the executive branch back down to its proper size.

So, we need ideas on how to empower this great consituency.

One of the ideas I had was that all marijuana consumers should join the Unitarian Universalist church. This amazingly open-minded, dogma free congregation already declared their support for an end to marijuana prohibition. If they recieved a sudden injection of 50 million members, all determined to begin the fight at last, it would spell the end of the grand witch hunt. The church could even provide cover to its new activists. They could say they are carrying out the will of the church which has decided to fight to end the persecution of many of its members. Consumers and non-consumers alike would march together and the grand stigma the fascists have worked so hard to create and maintain would not stick.

This is just one idea, but it really is time to wake the tranquilized (by government/corporate sponsored terrorism) giant of U.S. marijuana consumers. We need more ideas.

Although Professor Julian Heicklen never smoked or cared about marijuana, when he retired, he led a smoke-in at the gates of Penn State every Thursday for about a year at the end of the nineties. He said,

"MARIJUANA IS THE MESSENGER, NOT THE MESSAGE! THE LIT MARIJUANA HERB IS THE TORCH OF FREEDOM!"

It's Really Not About Drugs

I have been an outspoken critic of the rise and use of militarized police forces for a long time. There is NO economic or threat based justification for SWAT teams - just look at the FBI and other Government reports. COPS are not and never have been being slaughtered (about 50 out of 900,000 die by gunshot each year), they are NOT outgunned, criminals do not use automatic weaponry, and there are so few hostage and no terroirist attack situations that SWAT is used to serve warrants almost exclusively - not their purpose. The billions spent per year on these play soldiers, if spent instead on improving for instance our highways, would save thousands if not tens of thousands of lives PER YEAR.

The thing I hate is that SWAT teams are used mainly in drug related raids (where there is no need for them to be used). And people get hung up with Drug decriminalization issues because of that. With respect, I try to set aside the drug issue and whatever individuals perspective is on that issue.

The real issue to me is we have eliminated the Possse Comitatus Act, Habeas Corpus, the 4th amendment and we have allowed a standing army of rambo thugs to take hold and grow and grow - and people's civil rights, lives, limbs and private property are being destroyed wholesale.

I'd love to see a valid cost benefit study done which could actually justify (based on reality - not "well one day Osama could take over a school and then we'd need SWAT "- btw SWAT did NOTHING at Columbine) the continued existence of SWAT teams.

Nick Charles

You Don't Need SWAT for Tangos

If al-Q or some such group decided to pull a Beslan in the US, SWAT would be useless. They'd definitely be outgunned-terrorists would bring serious weapons, including grenades and other explosives.

So if they didn't kill everyone inside the school before SWAT got there, SWAT would be outgunned, outplanned, and quite possibly outmanned.

If the Tangos decided to try to play the hostage game, SWAT and the local PD would be good for establishing a perimeter, and that's about it. If it was a real terrorist situation, I can almost guarantee that there would be a bunch of VERY well trained, very serious men from military units that Uncle Sam doesn't officially acknowledge exit on the scene in a matter of hours. (No, they're not all committed overseas. They rotate. And if American kids were being held hostage by terrorists in America, you would have to beat those guys into unconsciousness to keep them off the plane to get there, I guarantee it.)

An earlier poster hit on one of the problems with SWAT units-the type of cops who volunteer for SWAT are very often exactly the guys you DO NOT want doing that sort of job-precisely because they think it's cool, and are in love with the power and imagined badassery of the job. Also, their use for low level drug raids comes about at least in part for the stupid political reason of guaranteeing future funding. All that gear, and any training they actually do, is expensive. That expense has to be justified, and despite what Hollywood thinks, there are relatively few hard core criminals who'd rather shoot it out with the cops than get arrested. So, they get used for things that a couple of uniformed cops could do, mainly in the name of "preserving evidence." Here's a bright idea-turn the place's water off during the night, wait til he gets up and takes his morning leak, thus emptying the toilet tank, and then have the cops knock on the door. Even better, if possible, wait til the inhabitants leave, then search the place, giving them a phone call while you're doing it so they can come home.

Time to start saying NO MORE!

If politicians won't disarm these thugs, then we must stage emergency recall elections, vote them out! In the meantime, we must do our best to defend ourselves-it's time to revive the concept of the Militia composing all able bodied Americans.

Some websites:

www.awrm.org
www.rwva.org
http://freedomguide.blogspot.com

J. Croft

I agree... petition

I agree... petition government, peacefully protest, redress grievances, vote them out. In the meantime, a well-regulated (which actually means well trained and disciplined... and not regulation as in law restriction) a well regulated Militia is becoming increasingly more necessary for the security of a FREE state. I'm thinking Neighborhood RAID watches.(haha) It would take more that just one household at a time forcibly standing up to this tyranny.

The drug war, and illegality of drugs, is unconstitutional as it is, and they are going to force themselves in our homes, and lives, to take everything from us; with the appearance, conducted, and weaponry that is equal to any definition of a military soldier.

America is being perverted into a tyranny.

Um...Blackwater...

Guaranteed ...it will be getting WORSE. Blackwater Global Inc.has received funding for counter narcotics actions. They will be coming back to the States after being kicked out of Iraq. A privatized,militarized,police force, on domestic duty. What can be done? Not much. It's nearly over USA, the grand experiment has failed. Of course," if your not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about"...right? Voting for the assortment of Republicrats is ...well...just voting, is'nt it ? Maybe Radley Balko will save the day...otherwise I'm afraid it's ...you know....(delete).

Blackwater Question

I have no doubt that what you say about Blackwater is probably true. I would be very interested in learning more about this situation.

Can you point me to a solid source regarding "Blackwater Global Inc.has received funding for counter narcotics actions. They will be coming back to the States after being kicked out of Iraq. A privatized,militarized,police force, on domestic duty."?

This seems to me to present yet more constitutional issues and I would like to research it.

Thanks You

Nick Charles

Yeah, standing armies in

Yeah, standing armies in time of peace... I believe the declaration and founders warn against stuff like that.
____

Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. – Thomas Jefferson

Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. - Abraham Lincoln

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. - George Washington (Can anyone say "Patriot Act"?)

It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government. - Thomas Paine

If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. – James Madison

When people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. – Thomas Jefferson
___

Vote Ron Paul!
http://www.ronpaul2008.com/

Meth in Indian Country

Please visit my website http://noxcusesnone.com

katheryn johnson's death.

This article is so stupid. Of course it was right for them to gun her down because she fired at them. It was either them or her. If anyone else would of been in the swat officers shoes, they wouldn't think twice about it. Typical stupid americans thinking that the police is bad and corrupt. They only seem that way because stupid uneducated people talk about them like that.

You're Ignorant

Wow! What an exposition of ignorance. Why don't you actually READ what happened there? Here's a couple hints for you:

1) The FBI came in against the police and is still ongoing.
2) Two of the cops avoided murder charges by pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter. They also admit to and cooperate with the FBI about the widespread corruption within their department.
3) Thye didn't announce they were the police they just started to break down an old lady's door.
4) The cops handcuffed her and planted drugs in her house WHILE she lay bleeding to death.
5) The cops tried to get informants to make up stories to cover their corrupt asses. The informants said "I don't want any part of this" and went to the FBI.
6) Initially, the police investigated themselves and cleared them selves (surprise).
7) Don't open your mouht until you have SOME idea of what you are talking about.

Nick Charles

"Of course it was right for

"Of course it was right for them to gun her down because she fired at them. It was either them or her."

So in your view, if someone breaks into your home and shots you after you shooting at them, they are justified? The point is that the Police have no right to break into homes.

Your not just ignorant, your flipping retarded.

"It was either them or her."

"It was either them or her." --- Hmmm, guess it's also either you or me!

"No one knows how many more

"No one knows how many more innocents have been injured by testosterone-crazed police or had their property wantonly destroyed in such raids. And no one is even counting how many people -- innocent, guilty, family members -- have been needlessly traumatized by the jackboot kicking the door in at 4:00am and all that follows."

And no one knows how many were framed by police planting drugs, as happened to Johnston. The system needs to consume human victims to keep going, and it doesn't much care if they are breaking any law.

Of course it doesn't matter if the police announce themselves on these raids. That does not make their actions acceptable. Any home invasion gang with any sense is going to yell "Police" when they break your door in, too.

ok if these drugs are so bad

ok if these drugs are so bad 1)pot now after all these years it now helps cancer 2)meth was given to soliders in the wars and yes this war to,if its so bad why give it to the soilders who are fighting for our lives never mind all that where the hell does some people think it comes from ?! the gov wants the drugs out there its all about the money they didnt get it from the pot so now its legal this is all about the money!looks like they would take the war on drug funds and put it where its needed oh that would be to easy. we are suppose to be free its your body if you want to use that should be choice. as long as your not hurting someone else or pushing them on kids you should be able to give it hell.

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