Civil Liberties

Another Isolated Incident


Two, actually. Both involve police intercepts of packages using the DHL delivery service on the campus at Duke University.

In the latest, police intercepted a package of marijuana bound for a fraternity house, then raided the place in full SWAT attire when one of the fraternity members signed for it. One of the residents describes the raid:

I am writing to share both my relief over the dropped charges against my housemate, senior Eric Halperin, as well as my continued anger at the blatant abuse of power by the Durham Police Department. On the morning of Feb. 27, our home off East Campus was raided by a team of State Bureau of Investigation agents and members of DPD. Without warning, our front door was knocked down and a handful of fully armed officers entered our home. Subsequently, we were ordered to the ground at the behest of assault rifles, dragged across the floor, hand-cuffed and forced to strip naked. In carrying out their search warrant, police officers destroyed hundreds of dollars of our personal property. Upon failing to find anything incriminating, my friend, Halperin, was falsely charged with drug trafficking without any investigation or evidence, except his signing for a DHL package not addressed to him.

It took a month, but police have now dropped all charges against Halperin. The earlier incident followed almost the same formula, except it took place in a dorm room. In that case too, the charges against the Duke student were dropped.

Even assuming it's appropriate to arrest a college student who signs for a package of marijuana addressed to someone else, why the SWAT tactics? Did the police department really think the fraternity was going to put up a fight? (Note: It was also the Durham police department that gave us this photo—discussion on that here.) Last month, there was a similar incident at LSU, in which a SWAT team raided a college student's home based on an anonymous tip that there might be some pot inside. They found nothing.

For some righteous outrage on the case, check out the "Liestoppers Board," a site set up by the parents of the wrongly accused Duke lacrosse team.