Please Burn the Byrne Grants

Since Scott opined yesterday about the injustice of paramilitarized policing, I thought I would follow up by referring back to a related topic I've addressed from time to time -- coordinated drug busts as taxpayer-funded lobbying by law enforcement agencies, large numbers of raids conducted together as part of statewide operations, intended to garner publicity for a funding program known as the Byrne Grants and thereby avoid Congressional budget cuts. California and Kentucky were among the guilty parties last year, though I suspect they were not the only ones. Kentucky is at again, according to libertarian SWAT-critic Radley Balko of Reason magazine, writing last week for
Last month, police in Kentucy went on a 24-hour drug raid blitz. According to local media accounts, the raids uncovered 23 methamphetamine labs, seized more than 2,400 pounds of marijuana, identified 16 drug-endangered children and arrested 565 people for illegal drug use. ... "During 'Operation Byrne Blitz,'" a local television station reported, "state police and highway patrol agencies, local police and sheriff's departments, and drug task forces throughout the country conducted undercover investigations, marijuana eradication efforts and drug interdiction activities. The collaborative effort, named for the federal grant program which funds many of the anti-drug efforts, underscored the impact that cuts to this funding could have on local and statewide drug enforcement."
Perhaps because they often are tied to drug arrest statistics, it was task funded by the Byrne grants that perpetrated the racist scandals in Tulia and Hearne, in which large numbers of minorities were rounded up and prosecuted, only for it all to turn out to be fabrication. In the Overkill report, Balko has identified the grants as one of the reasons for the overwhelming increase in the use of SWAT teams for minor drug enforcement. The Bush administration, surprisingly, has taken the lead in trying to slash Byrne funding, while Democrats have led efforts to restore it, such as NY Sen. Chuck Schumer at a press conference late last month. A letter signed by 51 senators asked the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Appropriations to restore cut Byrne funding, among them presidential contenders Clinton and Obama. To be fair to the candidates, some of our favorite senators unfortunately are on there too, such as Chris Dodd (D=CT), sponsor of the first Senate bill taking on the Higher Education Act drug penalty; Dick Durbin (D-IL); the justice-reform-minded Jim Webb (D-VA), others who've done some good things from time to time. Democrats clearly relish the support of national law enforcement unions, and it must be hard for any politician to resist getting to stand up next to law enforcement leaders at a press conference and call for more money for them. The Byrne grants fund other things besides arrests too, and the reasons for opposing the program may seem like harder sells from the point of view of a member of the "establishment" than it does for us out here. Also to be fair to the Democrats, those 51 signatories included 15 Republicans. A conservative commentator from the Heritage Foundation, Cully Stimson, also commented on, but making the case for the grants, in Don't Burn the Byrne Grants, back in February. Still, if George Bush can get it right, I think it's lame for Democrats not to, especially when one of the results of this program is what happened in Tulia and Hearne, about as close to overt race-based persecution by government as can be found. I say, do burn the Byrne Grants, in fact please burn them. The fact that law enforcement groups quite transparently lobby for them by conducting massive numbers of drug busts to get attention ought to set off warning bells. Any good things the grants might also support can be funded through other channels. This program is badly structured and misdirected, and it should go.
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Byrne Grants

The Edward Byrne Grants are being misused and many people have pointed this out. Law Enforcement however relies on the Edward Byrne Grant, to support Drug Task Force Units.

Big bucks can be had by showing that the drug problem in certain places is just horrific, there by proving to the powers that be, that Law Enforcement in that area needs a grant to help fight crime and the drug war.

In truth these grants are nothing more than a bounty placed on American Citizens, who may, or may not be, using drugs legally or illegally.

How far will law enforcement go to get their federal grants ? How about an informant who starts out to be, the states credible witness and becomes a mentally ill school bus driver with a drug and alcohol problem.

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565 people for illegal drug use.

I bet vast majority of those people were victims of drug check points and had just a few grams of whatever drug (the usual amount people carry while driving). It would be nice to know. But Radley Balko nailed it with this statement:

" If police in Kentucky can go out and find 2,400 pounds of marijuana in 24-hours anytime they want, just to make a political statement, that might be a pretty good sign that the grants — and the drug war in general — aren't working."

Drug Grants!

Drug laws have been the greatest threat to our freedoms and civil liberties. Illegal search & seizures. Strip searches. Cops busting down your door. Loss of personal freedoms. Minorities are the ones getting screwed in all this disproportionatly. All these laws have done is create a black market for drugs and large crime syndicates. Billons of our Dollars are heading down South. Big Gov. is more interested in maintaining the status quo than making a real difference in our lives. We are expected to have U.S. decide what is best for us as individuals. Jails filled with victimless criminals. Billions of our tax dollars spent on a misguided drug war. People in pain and suffeing denied a proven medication. Creation of "Bad Cops" corrupted by big money. Families torn apart. States rights being ingnored. Property being unjustly taken from U.S. citizens by courts. These laws have created a criminal class and done nothing to keep us safe from streets flooded with so-called illegal drugs. Not to mention the great injustice of classifying Marijuana along with other more serious and deadly drugs like Herion & coke. Everyone knows M.J. is safer that alcohol & tobacco. Yet we are expected to accept these crazy laws at face value. We are not stupid or born yesterday and the U.S. has got to start treating it's citizens with honesty and fairness, something that is severely lacking in our Nation's drug laws. J. Velasco Brownsville Texas.

You got that right!

"Not to mention the great injustice of classifying Marijuana along with other more serious and deadly drugs like Herion & coke. Everyone knows M.J. is safer that alcohol & tobacco. "

You got that right! I even hear these pseudo drug couseling witch doctors call marijuana a milder opiate. I'm sorry but if you've seen people going through withdrawal on heroin (or watch a movie like Requiem for a Dream, Ray, or Trainspotting), marijuana and any possible withdrawal symptoms are not even in the same ball league.

Jimi Devine's picture

Using the media

Law enforcement agencies are scarily effective at framing their one sided stories to the media. Many folks get there version of the Drug War from their local evening news, where of coarse stings like Operation Byrne Blitz come with two to three minute news packages letting us know about all the dangerous drug dealers they off the streets and how effective these raids are. In this case its even more cynical, the viewers connect the dots with the name of the operation and call their congressmen saying they want to see more stories like it with no idea how fiscal and societal costs of putting these people away.

The madness...

hypocracy inaction

If these localities are so worried about losing these programs without federal funding, why aren't they doing something about replacing those monies from a local, concerned, source? Oh, that's right, the only locals concerned are the cops. Law enforcement agencies ought to get used to letting go of the fed's money tit, as it is surely going dry, and start focusing on doing true hard policework to catch REAL criminals. A lack of funding for drug raids may actually cause a drop in real crime, so I say burn it

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