Wednesday, July 19, 2006

First they came for the drug defendants.....

Radley Balko has published a new report for the CATO Institute. From the executive summary of Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America:
...Over the last 25 years, America has seen a disturbing militarization of its civilian law enforcement, along with a dramatic and unsettling rise in the use of paramilitary police units (most commonly called Special Weapons and Tactics, or SWAT) for routine police work. The most common use of SWAT teams today is to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home.

These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.
Radley has been following this slow slide into fascist tactics in the drug war with his long time series, The Militarization of Mayberry, at his blog The Agitator. In this work he chronicles 150 examples of documented botched raids, more than three dozen examples of completely innocent people killed in mistaken raids, twenty cases of nonviolent offenders who've been killed, and more than a dozen cases of police officers killed by suspects or mistakenly targeted civilians who thought the police were criminal intruders. More importantly he offers solutions.

You can get a copy for yourself with the fancy interactive map, as a pdf file at this link. It's long but it's always worth the time to read what Radley has to say about the war on some drugs.


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