The Raid That Paid

|

The city of Goose Creek, South Carolina, and the Berkeley County School District have agreed to pay $1.6 million to settle a class action lawsuit stemming from a ham-handed, fruitless drug raid at Stratford High School in 2003. Assuming the federal judge overseeing the case approves the agreement, students caught up in the sweep will split $1.2 million, while their lawyers will get $400,000. According to a press release from Students for Sensible Drug Policy that does not seem to be online yet, students "named in the suit and those who received psychological counseling after the raid…could receive about $11,000 each," and other students in the hallway during the raid…could receive about $6,000 each." The principal, who defended the operation after it attracted national attention, is long gone.

NEXT: Mycoherbicide Mania!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’d be really f*cking pissed if I was a Goose Creek taxpayer.

    I don’t think this type of civil suit, where the government is forced to pay monetary damages, is an effective form of dicipline. It screws the taxpayer, who will hopefully screw the people involved. But very often, the people involved are very protected (typically by union contracts) and can’t be touched. A proper settlement of the suit should be that the Principal and Police Chief are fired and banned from holding other public positions in the state of South Carolina.

  2. The government needs to be held accountable for it’s actions. Just like the eeeevil corporations, they need the fear of lawsuits hanging over them.

    And just let Berkeley County try and raise bonds/taxes to pay for this. Try it.

  3. That would definitely be a better solution than a payout. Heads on pikes*, people.

    *preferably figuratively, but I’m willing to be flexible on that point.

  4. Here Here MP! I couldn’t agree more…you only need look elsewhere on the and Radley Balko’s Agitator site to see multiple instances of police, especially drug police botching a drug raid, hurting/killing innocent civilians/pets/bystanders/fellow officers..and walking away without repercussion. The taxpayers get hosed when the civil suits start flying but the cops don’t suffer directly! I think something a little performance based should be in order…..fuck up on the adress of the raid…and cause some poor older couple to drop dead and you go on a Federal list somewhere banning you from participating in law enforcement activities….Forever!! Shoot an optometrist because you forget your finger is on the trigger of your firearm and you write chalk tires in the meter maid cart until you retire. I’d be willing to bet that these punishments (non incarceration only) improve performance right quick!

  5. The government needs to be held accountable for it’s actions. Just like the eeeevil corporations, they need the fear of lawsuits hanging over them.

    Why would a government agent fear a lawsuit? There are indirect consequences, but rarely direct ones. A Corporation faces a loss of revenue, and will likely fire the people responsible. Ever try firing a government employee?

  6. But very often, the people involved are very protected (typically by union contracts) and can’t be touched.

    the school administrators and board members(management) who would be involved in coordinating such an operation with law enforcement would not be members of a teachers union and have no such contract. the administrators answer to the school board who are accountable to the voters.

    school administrators are generally no more protected than by the will of the board serving behind them. they make for convenient fall guys similar to the way city managers do for decisions that ultimately are made by elected officials. this is not to excuse any of the administrator’s actions.

    my whole point is that those responsible are far from untouchable and teacher’s unions would be the least likely to protect them.

  7. The government needs to be held accountable for it’s actions.

    I think this is wrong. It should be the minions who are accountable. They would be less likely to approve this stuff if their pocketbooks were at risk.

  8. as far as police unions and such, well, i’m not as sure about them.

  9. Yeesh. Psychological counseling? LAWSUIT!? What happened to the days when angry parents would send in a nasty letter, or call a PTA meeting? Albeit, I don’t remember anyone doing anything this idiotic(or dangerous)to the students when I was in school . . .not so long ago . . .

  10. Can we drop the lawsuit in leiu of allowing the students to horsewhip the responsible persons? Unlike MP, I’m being literal.

  11. I’ve always heard that if you didn’t have anything to hide, you didn’t have anything to worry about. I can’t believe law enforcement and school administrators would do this to the innocent children. [/sarcasm]

  12. I think Happy Jack has it right. Civil suits against the government should name the responsible employees, and a finding of fault should always lead to a firing and potential restitution from the responsible person’s pocketbook. People who have no risk of punishment (besides maybe missing that tenure promotion to G-whatever) have no incentive to not make mistakes.

  13. I don’t see how civil suits like this are bad. IF this makes just one other municipality re-write its SWAT laws or reconsider allowing something as asinine as this, than that suit did its job.

  14. I think the family of anyone unjustly shot by a police officer should have the right to deal with the officer as they see fit.

    18 kicks to the nether regions minimum.

  15. scape, I believe the raid was authorized on the suspicion that a single student had been dealing marijuana. That student was absent at the time of the raid.

    I would also guess that the cost of the settlement will be almost entirely born by insurance, not the school district, police department or taxpayers.

    The real gem in the settlement is the landmark recognition of 4th Amendment rights now enjoyed by Goose Creek students – police will now need to present reasonable cause prior to searching them. Glad to see that the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure applies to high school students, at least in Goose Creek. I hope other schools follow their lead – and it’d of course be nice if a lawsuit wasn’t first required.

  16. This was a particularly egregious raid. The government responsible (both police and school) needs to be punished. Since insurrections are no longer in vogue, a lawsuit will have to do.

    Given the tax base in Goose Creek (I spent a long time in SC), this is big enough to make them take notice, and not try such stupidity over a stupid bag of grass in the future.

    Of course, if horsewhipping is an option, I’m game.

  17. It probably felt like a stroll down memory lane for most of those cops, terrorizing kids in the same hallways where they used to be bullies just a few years earlier.

    It’s amazing some schoolgirl didn’t accidentally get a bullet in the head.

    http://www.thatvideosite.com/view/1147.html

    I know we need cops, but that job just draws in the meanest and/or dumbest fucking assholes in our society. There’s no way around that, of course; no one else in their right mind would do that job. I’m just bitching.

  18. Kane – you get the worst of all sorts in the PD. You’ve got assholes that just want to kick in some skulls, former geeks who are now mad with their newfound power, idiots who are too stupid to make into the FBI, etc, etc.

    Not to say there aren’t some good cops, but for the most part, you get a lot of people that you don’t want wielding weapons and arrest power.

    Although similar arguments can be made about the military, I suppose.

  19. Civil penalties are not the proper remedy.

    There is a charge, “conspiracy to deprive of a constitutional right under color of authority”, which is obviously appropriate to apply to the clowns responsible for this charade. Better for them to do time, than for the taxpayers to fork over while they get off scot-free.

    -jcr

  20. Yeesh. Psychological counseling? LAWSUIT!? What happened to the days when angry parents would send in a nasty letter, or call a PTA meeting? Albeit, I don’t remember anyone doing anything this idiotic(or dangerous)to the students when I was in school . . .not so long ago . . .

    Angry letters and PTA meetings are fine when a teacher gives an unfairly low grade, or the dress code rules are stupid. When kids are in school and a bunch of Gestapo agents burst in, make the kids lie flat on the ground, handcuff a few of them and point their guns every which way, I think a lawsuit is inappropriate only in the sense that it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

  21. I remember when I first saw the video of that raid. It was a total nazi operation. I’m still filled with anger and depression. Winning the lawsuit is good, as far as it goes. Handing out bigger paydays for “psychological counseling”, not so much.

    But I’m still pissed. Every cop that leveled a weapon should be disciplined, perhaps fired. And every administrator that signed off on that raid, should be doing time in a “federal pound-me-in-the-ass prison”.

    Damn, I need a drink.

  22. The problem isn’t the lawsuit, it is the reward. An appropriate dollar amount should be closer to $110, not $11,000.

  23. I have a proposal to fix the dilemma of having the taxpayers pay when a suit is successfully brought against government malfeasance such as in this case:

    The damages should be paid from funds that are designated for compensation for the government’s employees. The heaviest burden should fall on those who committed the malfeasance and then those whose have the same type of job, and then to other categories of government employees. This policy would discourage government abuse. There should also be a caveat that insurance against successful lawsuits against government may not be paid for by the taxpayer.

  24. The public/taxpayers who will bear the ultimate cost of this lawsuit are the same people who are ultimately responsible for having such abusive people on the police department and school administration.

    Maybe they’ll elect people who won’t allow the police to act like stormtroopers. Maybe they’ll elect people who won’t hire school administrators that allow, no encourage, their charges to be treated this way. Maybe some eyes will be opened about the drug war.

    Just like the Palestinians who elected Hamas, the public in Goose Creek needs to appreciate that there are consequences to their decisions.

  25. The outcome of this award (if upheld on appeal), will probably be more indirect than even MP’s first post suggests. The city, especially the PD, are most likely covered by liability insurance. If the award is upheld, the insurance pays off, premiums might go up, and no bond issues or tax increases are needed. While this is a testament to the insurance industry’s ability to spread risk, when working in government’s favor, it futher reduces the chances that the voters will ever get angry enough to replace elected office holders.

    For me, I like the idea that any/all public officials be held personally, financially, responsible for the negative consequences of their decisions. But it would require using the threat of government force to enforce, and I’m ethically opposed government and individual initiation of force.

  26. Does that mean you won’t eat me if I pass without answering your riddle?

  27. Just don’t look into his eyes, joe, or you’ll turn to stone.

  28. The public/taxpayers who will bear the ultimate cost of this lawsuit are the same people who are ultimately responsible for having such abusive people on the police department and school administration.

    Maybe they’ll elect people who won’t allow the police to act like stormtroopers. Maybe they’ll elect people who won’t hire school administrators that allow, no encourage, their charges to be treated this way. Maybe some eyes will be opened about the drug war.

    Nahhhh!

  29. joe,

    That’s what the proper reaction of the citizenry should be in this case, but it won’t be. I’d wager that most of them had very little problem with the raid. Those teenagers are out of control. You’ve got to keep them in line somehow. What with their rainbow parties and crystal meth laced marijuana and GTA inspired killing sprees and all. Yep, most of the citizens probably think the school and the cops got screwed on this one. It’s those damn civil rights lawyers that caused all this.

    Plus, do you really notice it in your taxes? It’s not like there is a line item for police department and school board fuck-ups. Sure you’re paying for it with a higher tax rate or a reduction in services, but most citizens don’t think to make the connection. They just bend over, drop their pants and mail in the check. If they do bitch it?s usually directed at their landscaper for taking his family to the county emergency room.

  30. ralphus,

    Residents usually do notice when a screw up by the local government costs them seven figures, even if the math works out to just a few bucks per taxpayer.

  31. “The public/taxpayers who will bear the ultimate cost of this lawsuit are the same people who are ultimately responsible for having such abusive people on the police department and school administration.”

    Yeah, and that guy who beats his wife wouldn’t need to do it if she’d just learn her place.

  32. Have you ever tried comparison shopping on price for medical procedures in the U.S.? It’s hilariously impossible. No one ever can tell you the undiscounted price of anything.

  33. joe,

    Maybe they do notice it, but where do they put the blame? Do they fault local government or those pesky lawyers and Jesse Jackson? A lot of this country has no problem with the War on Drugs. If they did have a problem with it politicians wouldn’t cling to it like they do. Now if this is a predominantly minority school, which I assume it is because of the Reverend’s involvement, maybe the citizens have had more experience with drug war overreach. If so, perhaps they will hold their public officials accountable. As they should.

    Also, I still argue that come tax day people think less about government screw-ups and more about convenient boogiemen like illegal immigrants. Cranky libertarians excluded.

  34. joe,

    Maybe they do notice it, but where do they put the blame? Do they fault local government or those pesky lawyers and Jesse Jackson? A lot of this country has no problem with the War on Drugs. If they did have a problem with it politicians wouldn’t cling to it like they do. Now if this is a predominantly minority school, which I assume it is because of the Reverend’s involvement, maybe the citizens have had more experience with drug war overreach. If so, perhaps they will hold their public officials accountable. As they should.

    Also, I still argue that come tax day people think less about government screw-ups and more about convenient boogiemen like illegal immigrants. Cranky libertarians excluded.

  35. Sorry for the double post.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.