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Law Enforcement: Drug War Takes Another Officer's Life

A Beckley, West Virginia, narcotics officer was shot and killed early Tuesday morning in an undercover drug buy gone bad, the Beckley Register-Herald reported Wednesday. Detective Cpl. Charles "Chuckie" Smith, 29, was hit by numerous gunshots as he attempted to make an arrest after a late-night crack cocaine purchase.

Two area men were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Smith's death and are at the Southern Regional Jail awaiting a bond hearing in Raleigh County Circuit Court.

According to the criminal complaint filed against the pair, Smith contacted one of them to make a crack cocaine purchase, then met the pair near a Beckley night club. When one of the men delivered some rocks to Smith, he flashed his badge. One man ran, but the other pulled a gun and shot Smith multiple times.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund, in the last decade, law enforcement officers have been killed at the rate of about 165 per year, with slightly more than half of those deaths due to accidents. The drug war takes the lives of about a dozen officers each year.

Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America

Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America (Cato Institute, 2006) POLICY FORUM Tuesday, September 12, 2006 12:00 PM (Luncheon to Follow) Featuring the author Radley Balko, Policy Analyst, Cato Institute, with comments by Norm Stamper, Seattle Police Chief (Ret.) and author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of Policing. The Cato Institute 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20001 Watch the Event Live in RealVideo Listen to the Event in RealAudio (Audio Only) Over the last 25 years, America has seen a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of SWAT units for routine police work. The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into homes. These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted suspects to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping. In a new Cato Institute white paper, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America, policy analyst Radley Balko looks at this disturbing trend in police work and analyzes the drug war incentives that have inspired it. The Cato Institute gratefully acknowledges the support of the Marijuana Policy Project in making this event possible. Cato events, unless otherwise noted, are free of charge. To register for this event, please fill out the form below and click submit or email [email protected], fax (202) 371-0841, or call (202) 789-5229 by 12:00 noon, Monday, September 11, 2006. Please arrive early. Seating is limited and not guaranteed. News media inquiries only (no registrations), please call (202) 789-5200. If you can't make it to the Cato Institute, watch this forum live online.
Data: 
Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Localização: 
1000 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Doing "Katrina Time"

It has been a scandal festering for a year now. Thousands of people being held in the Orleans Parish Prison and other facilities when Hurricana Katrina hit a year ago today are still behind bars. They have never seen a judge or had a hearing. They just sit. While the rest of the local criminal justice apparatus is up and running, the courts remain a mess and most of the public defenders are gone. Last week USA Today ran a story about New Orleans Judge Arthur Hunter, a fed-up jurist who was threatening to start setting those prisoners free starting Tuesday. No news yet on whether that occurred--I'll post back later today with a preliminary report. I have been speaking with people in New Orleans about this for a few weeks, including Samantha Hope, a Louisiana harm reductionist who has been in the trenches in New Orleans since well before Katrina. This Friday's Chronicle will quote her extensively, but I thought I'd post a little preview of what I've learned. One thing I've learned that getting out of jail in New Orleans is like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. "These folks coming out of OPP now are really in dire straits," Hope told me. "You've been held for over a year for smoking a joint, and when you get out, everything you know has vanished. The people are gone, the neighborhood is gone, it's all gone." I'm also going to follow-up with Human Rights Watch, which reported just after the hurricane that jail inmates appeared to have been literally abandoned as the waters rose, and hundreds were missing. The ACLU has done a similar report, and I'll be talking to them, too, as well as people involved in the public defender system. But right now New Orleans doesn't feel too responsive; the defenders are way overworked and understaffed, the sheriff's department won't return my calls, and so it goes. But stay tuned, there will be an update later today and a feature article on Friday.
Localização: 
New Orleans, LA
United States

Harvest Season Hijinks

Every year in August, we see a flurry of marijuana eradication stories in local papers, as police target outdoor plants ripening for the fall harvest. Nowhere is this phenomenon more visible than in California where the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) makes Federal dollars available to local police departments wishing to send their officers on a treasure hunt in the forest.

Local papers have become shameless cheerleaders for this annual ritual, seeking to amaze the public with sexy photos of heavily armed cops repelling into dangerous terrain from helicopters alongside boastful headlines touting seizures in the millions.

Of course, for all the fanfare, many people will notice that there’s no shortage of high-grade marijuana in California. So police use deception to keep the reporters and the public interested.

Here’s how they do it:

Deception #1: Claim a “record” number of seizures every year.

Setting records implies that progress is being made. Every article on outdoor eradication efforts includes a quote like this:

From the Daily Democrat in Woodland, CA:

"I expect this year to be another big year," said [Officer] Resendez. "If we continue on the same pace, we'll exceed the number of plants eradicated last year."

Police are basically competing with themselves here, so they can’t lose. If the numbers go down, they’ll say it’s because last year’s effort intimidated the growers.

Of course record seizures are meaningless if you don’t compare them to an estimate of the overall crop size. A 10% increase in eradication is a failure if the total crop has increased by 20%, but you never get that type of analysis.

There are other factors at play as well. From the Union Democrat in Tuolumne County, CA:

"The increase in plant count is because the gardens are bigger," said Tuolumne County Sheriff Lt. Dan Bressler. "The gardens are bigger because there was so much rain this past year. Streams are full and a lot of water runoff means they're better able to supply their gardens."

Out of a dozen articles on marijuana eradication in California I’ve skimmed this week, only this one mentioned increased rain. Every other article praised record seizures, allowing readers to infer that good police work was the sole factor. It’s a notable omission since rain, unlike police, will find every plant in the forest. If anything, we should be expecting an impressive crop come October.

Deception #2:Dramatically overestimate crop values.

Big numbers get headlines and police will say anything. Here’s a typical quote from KATU News in Oregon:

The plants were four to six feet tall, growing in scattered gardens on three acres of Bureau of Land Management property near Hyatt Lake. Plants of that size can produce about a pound of marijuana each - worth about five-thousand dollars on the street.

I emailed Chris Conrad, court-qualified cannabis expert, to see what he thinks about these numbers. Here’s what Conrad has to say:

After decades of proclaiming "a pound of bud per plant" as being the average harvest, the DEA and DoJ had the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) do an actual study at their experimental marijuana garden at the University of Mississippi. The result: A typical mature female cannabis plant growing outdoors puts out 4 ounces of bud, that is 25% of their claimed yield, and it can be calculated by taking the square foot of the canopy and multiplying it by 1/2 ounce per square foot of area covered by the plant's canopy. The result, published in Cannabis Yields, 1992, notes that "a survey" of police came to a pound per plant, and that is clarified that drug police "estimate" a pound of bud per plant, but it is clear that there is absolutely no data to back that up, it is a made up number used by police to exaggerate crop values.

According to Conrad, police tend to exaggerate crop values within a range of “anywhere from 4 to 1 to 400 to 1.” Of course, with newspapers reporting that you can make $5,000 per plant, it’s no wonder so many people are out in the woods planting the stuff.

Deception #3 Pretend that marijuana eradication is dangerous.

Articles about marijuana eradication always claim the work is hazardous, citing difficult terrain and armed criminals. Again from the Daily Democrat:

[Resendez] added that there are several hazards to law enforcement officials, including the rocky terrain and the suspects. "It's pretty dangerous," Resendez said. "You'll encounter a suspect and they'll be armed. Not so much to protect themselves from law enforcement but from criminals who are trying to steal their plants."

At least he admits that growers arm themselves to protect the crop from thieves and not police. Still, the perception that growers might attack officers has continually driven a militarized approach to eradication. In his book The Great Drug War, Professor Arnold S. Trebach describes how “sensational journalism” in the early 1980s fueled a widespread perception that marijuana growers were armed and dangerous. CAMP officers have been armed to the teeth ever since.

Deception #4: Blame the Mexicans.

Every article on outdoor marijuana growing in CA must have an obligatory reference to the Mexican gangs that are supposedly behind it all. We’ve come full-circle here, since racial animosity towards Mexicans was originally used as leverage in the first efforts to criminalize marijuana.

From the Crestline Courier-News in Lake Arrowhead, CA:

“Ninety-nine percent of the plants seized in the national forests,” [Special Agent] Stokes said, “were planted by members of the Mexican National Cartel which has a huge network throughout California and the west.”

99%!? It’s a convenient generalization, since most such articles note that the growers are rarely seen or apprehended. But I’ll bet if you’re a Mexican walking around a remote California forest in August, you’re a heck of a lot more likely to get questioned by the park police.

To the extent that Mexican gangs are getting involved in outdoor marijuana cultivation, it’s entirely due to prohibition. But it also reflects poorly on CAMP, which has dedicated 20 years to fighting marijuana in California’s forests, only to find that the business is still attracting new participants. If they exist, these gangs are the best evidence that CAMP has failed.

Regardless, I believe the role of Mexican crime syndicates has been dramatically overstated. Let’s face it, the upper half of California is crawling with white people that absolutely love planting pot in the woods. They’ve been there for decades.

For more on the history of CAMP, read Martin Targoff’s excellent book Can’t Find My Way Home. And if you’re ever accused of attempting to grow $50 million worth of marijuana, make sure your lawyer calls Chris Conrad to the stand.

Localização: 
United States

Police to Start Ecstasy Tests (For Drivers) (Australia)

Localização: 
VIC
Australia
Publication/Source: 
ABC News (Australia)
URL: 
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200608/s1726318.htm

Drug Arrests Up in Vancouver

Localização: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
Publication/Source: 
Toronto Globe & Mail
URL: 
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060828.BCPOLICE28/TPStory/National

Oakland Officials Fooling Themselves If They Think Drug Crackdown Will Curb Violence for Long

The San Franciso Chronicle has reported that 30 suspected drug dealers were arrested in a crackdown on drug hot spots on Thursday. More arrests are planned as the sweep continues. Mayor Jerry Brown explained the reason for doing the sweeps:
"This violent subculture is very much connected to the sale of drugs in the same locations, year after year.''
Talking tough for the media, Brown continued:
"Oakland is not the place to do criminal business."
Captain Dave Kozicki added to the tough talk:
"Every drug dealer out there should be looking over their shoulder, wondering whether or not they, in fact, sold to an undercover officer."
Maybe some Oaklanders will be impressed, but I'm not. Frankly, I think comments like Brown's and Kozicki's are pretty silly. Clearly Oakland is a place to do drug dealing, or the drug dealers wouldn't be there. Do they seriously believe the drug trade isn't going to continue, in basically the same form, with at most an extremely brief (probably already over) and highly partial reduction? Or just moving to different locations? Obviously these are not the first drug arrests Oakland police have made during the "year after year" to which Brown referred. While I didn't look at all the details, a search of the SF Chronicle's archives going back to 1995 on the words "Oakland Drug Sweep" pulled up 130 listings -- I'm sure they weren't all really about drug sweeps, but a lot of them clearly were. Guys, the drugs are still there from after the last time you did this, and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that... The way to make Oakland -- and all of our cities -- no longer places to do criminal business is to end prohibition. Sweeps and busts only move the trade from place to place or hand the business from one seller to another. Only drug legalization can actually make that kind of crime not pay. Let the Chronicle know what you think by sending them a letter to the editor. Send us a copy using our new <?php print l('contact form', 'contact', NULL, NULL, NULL, NULL, TRUE); ?> -- select the "Copies of Letter You've Sent" option -- or post a copy in the comments here below.
Localização: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Families Against Mandatory Minimums 15th Anniversary

September 21, 2006 Sphinx Club 1315 K St. NW, Washington, DC 6:00 reception 7:00 dinner and program Families Against Mandatory Minimums Foundation invites you to join in commemorating the 15th anniversary of FAMM's sentencing advocacy in Washington, DC on September 21. For 15 years, FAMM has advocated for fair and proportionate sentencing laws on behalf of the thousands of individuals and families affected by harsh mandatory sentences. Since 1991, FAMM's work has directly contributed to more equitable sentences for tens of thousands of defendants nationwide and paved the way for a shift away from mandatory sentencing policies. Among FAMM's successes are changes to federal LSD and marijuana sentencing policies, and a "safety-valve" to allow judges to sentence below the mandatory minimum in certain federal drug cases. In Michigan, FAMM led the successful effort to repeal all drug mandatory minimum sentences - a change that provided earlier parole eligibility to hundreds of prisoners serving harsh sentences. Will you please join us for cocktails, dinner and an awards program to honor the following individuals whose voices have fostered support for sentencing justice. Representatives Bob Inglis (R-SC) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) For their courageous leadership in sentencing reform Mercedes Ruehl, actress For her poignant portrayal of a mother in prison in Court TV's movie, Guilt by Association Gary Fields, Wall Street Journal reporter For his relentless coverage of those affected by sentencing and criminal justice policies JeDonna Young, formerly incarcerated mother For tipping the scales of sentencing justice in MI with her personal story With music by national recording artist Jill Sobule The host committee for the gala includes: Ed Crane The Honorable Don Edwards The Honorable Mickey Edwards Jason Flom Wade Henderson The Honorable Bob Kerrey Laura Murphy Pat Nolan Carly Simon and many others Please visit http://famm.org to purchase your tickets today, so that you won't miss out on this exclusive event! You can also show your support for FAMM by purchasing an advertisement in the dinner program. All proceeds will be used to support FAMM's work for fair and equitable sentences. I look forward to seeing you on September 21. Sincerely, Julie Stewart President, Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Data: 
Thu, 09/21/2006 - 6:00pm - 9:00pm
Localização: 
1315 K St. NW
Washington, DC
United States

First Annual Charity Dinner/Fundraiser for In Arms Reach: Parent Behind Bars: Children in Crisis

December 1, 6:30pm, New York, NY, First Annual Charity Dinner/Fundraiser for In Arms Reach: Parent Behind Bars: Children in Crisis, with former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks. At the Great Hall of City College, call (212) 650-5894 for further information.
Data: 
Fri, 12/01/2006 - 6:30pm - 10:00pm
Localização: 
New York, NY
United States

Sentencing: Illinois Drug War at Full Throttle, Study Finds

A study released Tuesday by Roosevelt University's Institute for Metropolitan Affairs in Chicago has found that Illinois is second only to California when it comes to locking up drug war prisoners. Some 13,000 drug offenders were sent to prison in Illinois in 2002, second only to California's nearly 40,000. Illinois trumped states with larger populations, such as Texas and New York.

It's not just raw numbers where Illinois ranks high, according to "Intersecting Voices: Impacts of Illinois' Drug Policies". When it comes to drug possession prisoners per capita, Illinois again ranks second in the nation, trailing only Mississippi and throwing people in prison for drug possession faster than "lock 'em up" states like Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Not in the least surprisingly, the study, authored by researchers Kathleen Kane-Willis and Jennifer Janichek (a member of the board of directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy), found that although whites and blacks used illicit drugs at the same rates, blacks were imprisoned at a rate of six for each white drug offender. Here, Illinois can claim first place nationally in the per capita rate of African Americans imprisoned for drug offenses.

"The number of people who face incarceration in Illinois for drug possession -- and the racial disparity of those who are incarcerated -- is just staggering," said Kathleen Kane-Willis, lead author of the study and assistant director of the Institute for Metropolitan Affairs.

What is also staggering is the explosive growth in drug war prisoners in Illinois. In 1983, drug offenders made up 4.9% of the state prison population; in 2002, they made up 37.9%. The drug war prisoner population grew from a little over 400 in 1983 to almost 13,000 in 2002, a mind-bending 2,748% increase in two decades.

Also staggering is the cost of locking up thousands of nonviolent drug offenders. The study estimates that Illinois spent about $280 million to imprison drug offenders in 2002. There is a better way, said Kane-Willis. "Drug abuse is a public health problem, and our study suggests that treatment for drug offenders is more appropriate, more cost-effective and has better results than incarceration."

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