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Errata: 4/3/09 Danger of Drug Enforcement Story

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Two weeks ago, Drug War Chronicle published an article on a topic we have covered the last few years, police officers killed while enforcing drug laws in 2008. The article drew on information published by the Officer Down Memorial Page and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

The article listed seven cases of police officers who were killed doing drug enforcement, but also included two others who were not engaged in drug enforcement activity at the time of their deaths, but for which the situations seemed to have drug laws in the chain of events that led to their turning violent. One of those was Timothy Scott Abernethy of Houston, Texas, killed on December 8.

After a professor and former police officer who was quoted in our article posted a link to our article in his blog, a reader who described himself as a fellow Houston police officer criticized our choice to include Officer Abernethy in our list, saying that drugs were not involved and that the connection to the drug war was too tenuous. The officer described himself as a "liberal" who thinks the decriminalization debate is important, but who doesn't want the circumstances of his friend's death to be misrepresented.

After reviewing the case, we decided that our inclusion of Officer Abernethy in this list was erroneous, and we have revised the article accordingly. While the killer did do some time for drug offenses, his criminal history was extensive and also included DWI, assault, and other charges. We hereby offer our apology to any friends, colleagues, family of Officer Abernethy or other observers who were pained by what they felt was an inaccurate portrayal of this very brutal and still very recent killing.

Note that our article did state that Officer Abernethy was not doing drug enforcement at the time of his death, but identified him as one of two slain officers who "died after stopping drivers who had been arrested and imprisoned before on drug charges and were apparently not ready to return to prison." Our editor's decision to include Officer Abernethy in the list was that he initially thought the case fell into that category.

Also note that our organization has no purpose or agenda that would be served by reporting eight or nine police officers killed doing drug enforcement vs. seven. Along with that difference being too small to affect any policy debate (though a great tragedy for anyone connected to the officers), our article argued that drug enforcement is less dangerous than commonly believed, not more. If we had wanted to stretch the numbers in order to make our point, our incentive would therefore have been to not include any cases we didn't have to and use the smaller number, not the larger one. The article also argued that using SWAT to do drug raids increases rather than decreases the danger to officers, but neither of the two additional cases involved SWAT teams.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Swat raids

Excuse me, but F the cops that get killed, when 1 innocent civilian gets killed, the program is a failure. Any program that has to kill anyone to prove how dangerous something is, is ludicrous.
And, when the government endorses, and supports this kind of activity against the people, who's the real criminal?
Why does this terrorist action even exist in the 21st century, in America, and nothing is done?
I don't care what "they" call it, these are "homegrown" terrorists inflicting harm on citizens and the government supports it.
What if these "raids" were carried out by "skin heads"?
Where does "law enforcement" become terrorism?
Saddam killed some of his people, and we made a special trip to hang his @ss. No wonder the world hates us.

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