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In fact, since the Johnston raid last year, there have been mistaken drug raids on innocent people in Temecula, Calif.; Annapolis, Md.; several incidents in Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City; Galliano, La.; Hendersonville, N.C.; Ponderay, Idaho; Stockton, Calif.; Pullman, Wash.; Baltimore; Wilmington, Del.; Jacksonville, Fla; Alton, Kansas; Merced County, Calif.; and, believe it or not, Atlanta, Ga.
And of course, these are merely those reported in newspapers.
If any good has come of this, it's that the media coverage surrounding Kathryn Johnston's death has at least exposed the country to the widespread use of "dynamic entry" tactics for routine service of drug warrants, and the rather predictable problems that come with armed police breaking into someone's home. The fact that Johnston was a 92-year-old woman rather than a 19-year-old man probably has something to do with that.
This week, the Drug Reform Coordination Network will release a Zogby Poll on paramilitary police tactics. The numbers are surprising. Nearly two-thirds of those polled don't believe "aggressive entry tactics such as battering down doors, setting off flash-bang grenades, or conducting searches in the middle of the night" are appropriate tactics when the suspect is a nonviolent drug offender.
In fact, in every demographic group Zogby measured, a majority of respondents said such tactics should not be used in routine drug investigations, including 56 percent of self-identified Republicans, and 52.5 percent of respondents describing themselves as "very conservative."
There have been other Kathryn Johnstons over the years. In fact, dozens of innocent people have been killed in mistaken or botched drug raids since these more aggressive police tactics started to be used with more regularity, beginning about in the early 1980s. Cities like New York, Denver, and San Diego have, like Atlanta today, come under tremendous scrutiny over the years after a botched raid ended with the death of an innocent.
Unfortunately, these stories tend to follow a pattern: intense media coverage, followed by promises of reform from police and politicians, followed by-inevitably-a return to business as usual.
Perhaps Atlanta will turn out differently.
Radley Balko is a senior editor for reason.