War on Drugs

? You Gotta' Know When to Hold 'Em. Know When to Fold 'Em. Know When to Walk Away. Know When to Get the Fuck on the Floor and Put Your Hands on Your Head…?


More paramilitary raids on poker rooms, in Georgia this month, and in North Carolina last month.

The latter included a small army of police officers from several police agencies, including the federal BATF and the National Guard. They even brought a damned helicopter. They issued 41 citations, all of them misdemeanors.

Police in Cary, North Carolina gave the same excuse for the show of force that the cops in Dallas gave when they sent out the SWAT teams to raid poker games in that city: While not prone to violence themselves, poker rooms are often robbed. Therefore, they sometimes have armed guards. Therefore, police have to use overwhelming force.

I don't know that it's true that poker games are regularly knocked off by armed bandits. Nor are they particularly dangerous. I've been to a couple. And I've gotten email from people who were at games that were raided in Dallas. These games are frequented by poker enthusiasts, not mobsters. I suspect the local authorities may have been watching too much Sopranos

But even if the theory is true, the show of force doesn't make a lick of sense. Let's assume the game does have armed guards. Put yourself in the guards' position. You've been hired to make sure a black market poker game doesn't get knocked off by armed intruders. Under which scenario are you more likely to use your gun: (A) Several uniformed cops knock on the door, identify themselves, come into the room, and break up the game, or, (B) several men dressed in black or camouflage and packing heat storm the place without warning, screaming and shouting obscenities?

The SWAT fetishists will tell you that SWAT is still the safer option, because the overwhelming force disables the guards before they can react. I say that's wishful thinking. Ask Edward Reed, who was working security at a Virginia Beach club raided by the local SWAT team serving a gambling warrant. Oops. You can't ask him. He's dead. His last words, directed at the SWAT team, were, "Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book." And of course, there's Sal Culosi, also the dead victim of the local police department's policy of serving a gambling warrant with the SWAT team.

This editorial writer at the Fayetteville Observer gets to the grist of the issue, while smothering it with a couple gravy ladles of folksy wisdom:

Should the U.S. Department of Defense throw its great bulk into local law enforcement operations meant to bring people to justice for civil misdemeanors that might net them a fine and, maybe, 60 days in jail?


Maybe you already know all about the National Guard Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection program. I didn't. So, after breaking my nails on a few bureaucratic walls (Cary PD, governor's office, Crime Control and Public Safety, Alcohol Law Enforcement), I Googled it and quickly discovered that it's all over the place — spotting marijuana from the air, interacting with kids at school, routine law enforcement stuff. Problem is, it's not a law enforcement agency. It's the military.


They were there to play cards, not to foment rebellion. Now, what was it about this operation that demanded backup not only from the state Bureau of Alcohol Law Enforcement and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but also from the U.S. military? Ahem: What did the warrants say?

It's only a guess, but I'd say Cary called for National Guard RAID simply because it's available and it's willing. Which leaves me wondering what other minutiae, personal vices and petty crimes are occupying its time, and where they're occupying it. Coulda sworn somebody told me there's a war on.

Until we get this sorted out, better not jaywalk. There could be a military helicopter overhead.

Hey, it could be worse. In Britain, they're considering sending cops into people's homes for unpaid parking tickets.