Drug Policy

If You Don't Want a SWAT Team at Your Door, You Shouldn't Be Drinking Tea



Why did a SWAT team raid Bob and Addie Harte's house in Leawood, Kansas, two years ago, then force the couple and their two children to sit on a couch for two hours while officers rifled their belongings, searching for "narcotics" that were not there? KSHB, the NBC station in Kansas City, reports that the Hartes made two mistakes: Bob went to a hydroponics store in Kansas City, Missouri, with his son to buy supplies for a school science project, and Addie drank tea. It cost them $25,000 to discover that these innocent actions earned them an early-morning visit by screaming, rifle-waving men with a battering ram.

The Hartes, who tried to reassure their neighbors by showing them the search report indicating that nothing was taken from their home, were naturally curious what they had done to attract police attention. But the Johnson County Sheriff's Office would not say, so the Hartes hired a lawyer to help them obtain the relevant records, which according to KSHB is not easy in Kansas because state law favors darkness over sunshine. Eventually the Hartes learned that a Missouri Highway Patrol trooper saw Bob at the hydroponics store on August 9, 2011. Seven months later, state police passed on this hot tip to the sheriff's office, which sprang into action (after a few weeks), rummaging through the Hartes' garbage three times in April 2012. On all three occasions, they found "wet plant material" that a field test supposedly identified as marijuana.

Such tests are notoriously unreliable, confusing chocolate with hashish, soy milk with GHB, and soap with cocaine, among other hilarious errors that result in fruitless searches, mistaken arrests, and false imprisonment. But the cops did not bother to confirm their field results with a more reliable lab test before charging into the Hartes' home, three days after their third surreptitious trash inspection. When the Hartes starting asking questions about the raid, the sheriff's office suddenly decided to test that wet plant material, which it turned out was not marijuana after all. The Hartes figure it must have been the loose tea that Addie favors, which she tends to toss into the trash after brewing. Field tests have been known to misidentify various possible tea ingredients, including spearmint, peppermint, lavendar, vanilla, anise, and chicory, as marijuana.

Since mistakes like this are pretty embarrassing, the Hartes think Kansas cops would be more careful if obtaining police records were easier. "You shouldn't have to have $25,000, even $5,000," Addie Harte tells KSHB. "You shouldn't have to have that kind of money to find out why people came raiding your house like some sort of police state."

NEXT: Woman Arrested For Late Payment of $5 Dog License—and That's Business as Usual

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  1. “You shouldn’t have to have that kind of money to find out why people came raiding your house like some sort of police state.”

    Shit, lady. I could have told you that for free. Because it IS some sort of police state.

    1. Don’t you understand? Since you’re able to say that, it means this ISN’T a police state! QED, libertarians!


  2. Why does Jerkwater, Kansas need a SWAT team?

    Oh yeah, because fuck you, that’s why.

    1. But, but… if we don’t spend our entire budget this year,we won’t get as much next year!

    2. Leawood is a suburb of Kansas City, so it’s not exactly “Jerkwater.” But hey, I agree, they don’t need a SWAT team.

    3. Leawood is a suburb of Kansas City, so it’s not exactly “Jerkwater.” But hey, I agree, they don’t need a SWAT team.

      1. Saying it twice doesn’t make both Kansas Cities not Jerkwaters.

  3. I hate to say it, but it is somewhat of a good thing when these raids hit normal, middle-and-upper-class people. The more of this kind of raid that happens, the more the average voter is going to stop believing that “cops are our friends” and the sooner we can turn the cops back into police officers rather than an occupying army.

    1. ^This.

      I was somewhat encouraged the other day by the article about the goons with badges going around at a ski resort handing out bullshit tickets.

    2. I used to think that, Aresen, but after the Cheye Calvo incident when the cops mistakenly raided the home of the mayor of a township in Maryland I realized that we were all fucked.

      It is still possible that we will reach a tipping point, but that may also come too late.

      1. I remember that one. Shot both dogs, one from behind as it ran away. Scared the bejesus out of the grandmother. And Sheriff Porkrind still says, “Frankly, we?d do it again. Tonight.” Jackass.

      2. I was thinking of Calvo, but it is going to take a whole series of such incidents before people change their minds.

        TBS, you have a valid point about people not changing their minds until it is too late. I can almost hear it now: Why didn’t anyone warn us that cops were turning into jackbooted thugs?”

        1. The Germans didn’t just wake up one morning and find themselves living in a police state. It happened gradually, and most Germans believed they were being protected by their government, right up until the government came for them.

    3. But…but…the cops mean well!

      1. They should sell their good intentions to the Devil. I’ve heard that he’s building a new Highway to Hell to accommodate the influx caused by the out of control increase in politicians, police, prohibitionists and enemies of freedom and just can’t find enough paving material.

    4. what has been done will not be undone short of revolution… the odds of it being reversed are astronomical even with full support of the public, its not like we have fair or equal elections, or a constitution that has any teeth. this is just going to become more common place year after year until we all end up rounded up imprisoned, or murdered by the jackboots its just the natural progression of government, the only solution is the orderly and peaceful abolishment of the federal government

      1. So then how did we decrim here in MA. There is a rally here where thousands of people get high in the town square with no arrests. People smoke here with almost zero paranoia and there are many hydrophonic supply shops doing a bang-up biz – and no SWAT teams arresting people like this.

        Aren’t those facts and the recent legalization and semi-legalization (Co, Ca, Wa, etc.) evidence of peaceful change?

        My thinking is that “socons” like this swatty kind of stuff – it’s not too far from right wing to extreme right wing (the jackboots you speak of), and Kansas is not known for it’s liberals.

        Strangely enough, Kansas used to be a very progressive place. But, as with much of the country, they were brainwashed into voting against their own interests. As long as people do that, you can’t help them.

    5. Ya, I’m one of those. I’ve always been leery of the feds but I have a serious soft spot for local cops. Until I started reading Reason regularly I thought police brutality was mostly a left wing boogeyman. I taught my 26 year old son to always be cooperative with law enforcement and now I’m teaching my 16 year old to volunteer nothing and to ask for a lawyer before answering. This breaks my heart.

  4. Heroes in BlueUrban Camo and Face Masks.

    1. I know the uniform says “sheriff” but I don’t think the Stasi or NKVD ever has such an arsenal in tow.

      1. The didn’t need it. Their arsenal was back at headquarters and the citizen ‘terrorist’ knew this.

        Once your local cops get their own torture rooms it won’t be necessary to run around raiding people in shitty-looking SVU’s on steroids.

        By the way the Stasi of the past is now the Security Service of Ukraine which is just as vile.

  5. How strange is it that America’s decline into a police state started with politicians trying to prevent people from using a harmless weed?

    That so much death and destruction could come from something so unbelievably trivial as trying to stop people from smoking pot.

    1. The majority of people who seek power are sociopaths. It is not strange at all that we should find ourselves where we are right now.

    2. Enforcement of victimless crimes requires an authoritarian police state. This is a feature to statist assholes, not a bug.

      1. And yet most Americans still believe this is the “land of the free and home of the brave”

        These sorts of cases show we are not free, and the fact that society continues to tolerate them means we are not brave either.

        1. We’re all Boston Strong now.

      2. “Enforcement of victimless crimes requires an authoritarian police state”

        And vice-versa.

    3. if not weed, they would have found something else. People who seek power and control over others don’t need reasons, just rationalizations.

    4. its not a weed its a flower

    5. I don’t think the mellow herb was as responsible as you imply. In any case, it’s been regulated since the 30’s. Which, you may recall, is back when alcohol was constitutionally prohibited and gangs of black market hooch dealers would shoot it out in the streets. Prohibition doesn’t become any more or less moral depending on the level of danger associated with the drug, and marijuana ain’t exactly the only, or even the primary, drug that the state is fighting a “war” against.

      The police state started a long time before The Man (TM) started persecuting hippies for their ganja. Without at least the basic framework in place the war on drugs couldn’t have started in the first place.

  6. “You shouldn’t have to have that kind of money to find out why people came raiding your house like some sort of police state.”

    We could have saved her the time and money.

    Because FUCK YOU THAT”S WHY.

  7. possible tea ingredients, including spearmint, peppermint, lavendar, vanilla, anise, and chicory, as marijuana.

    Those aren’t tea ingredients. They are tisane ingredients.

    1. The level of tea education in this world is sadly lacking, Zeb. You know Poirot has been trying to teach people about tisane for decades and failing.

      Anyway they could have been in a blend with actual tea. Someone clearly needs to spend another $25k to clear this up.

      1. Creme Earl Gray makes fantastic ice tea.

        1. I imagine I’d like your iced tea. Can’t stand sweet tea.

      2. I actually did picture Poirot asking for a tisane as I wrote that.

  8. I’m discontented with homes that I’ve rented
    So I have invented my own.
    Darling, this place is lovely oasis
    Where life’s weary taste is unknown
    Far from the crowded city
    Where flowers pretty caress the stream
    Cozy to hide in, to live side by side in,
    Don’t let it apart in my dream-

    Picture you upon my knee
    Just tea for two
    And two for tea
    Just me for you
    And you for me alone

    SMASH! Police! Police! This is a raid! Hands up! Get on the floor! I said put your hands up!

  9. But the cops did not bother to confirm their field results with a more reliable lab test before charging into the Hartes’ home, three days after their third surreptitious trash inspection.

    Why should they bother with all that extra work? What are they going to do about it? HUH?

    1. The cops didn’t want to do the extra work because then they wouldn’t have been able to have so much fun and send in the SWAT boys for a little Shock ‘n Awe – that’s a lot more entertaining for them than knocking on someone’s door and saying “Excuse me, we have had reports… May we come in? We can get a warrant if necessary”.

  10. “wet plant material”.

    1. Watering your lawn will now be punishable by SWAT raids.

      1. It’s not called grass for nothing

  11. Will these raids ever start to back fire on the thugs? Will we ever reach a point where society finally says enough?

    1. No. And this has been pretty clear ever since the picture of that mustachoied goon dragging a screaming child out of his granparent’s (?) arms while pointing an automatic at them was published, AND NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED.

      1. Yeah, that incident amputated my optimism.

  12. among other hilarious intentional errors that result in fruitless searches

  13. All these cop stories. Weird. On this issue, I’m glad I live here in Quebec. Cops are jerkoffs up here too but man, nothing like I’ve been reading. Killing dogs, homeless guys in the back, raiding peaceful citizens, shooting people dead for specious reasons. Jesus, what the fuck?

  14. Jesus. From the article:

    The embarrassing misstep for deputies would have remained hidden if the Hartes had not had the means to spend money to gain access to the records.

    It’s not a damn misstep. It’s a motherfuckin’ violation of your person and property. It is violence, it is outrageous, and it has to stop.

  15. If this stuff is ever stopped, it’s going to be because we had something like the Romanian revolution. Won’t be fun.

  16. A SWAT raid of a person’s home by itself creates a very dangerous situation that can only be justified if it addresses a greater danger. They are lucky their pet wasn’t shot. The immediate issue is that the Kansas cops negligently raided a home for a reason that turned out to be false, and that they could have known was false for much less time and expense than a raid. The larger issue is, even if their trash did contain soggy cannabis leaves, is that a danger that justifies this level of aggression? Clearly not.

    The elephant in the room that nobody is talking about is ASSET FORFEITURE. I submit is that the “justification” is the lust of the police for asset forfeiture. The family had a very nice house, and the Kansas cops wanted it. Pot smokers are soft and harmless targets for these types of action. It’s a lot easier than going up against a drug gang.

    1. What I’d like to see is a study of how, when and by what agencies swat raids are used in low risk situations like this. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a correlation with departments that do lots of asset forfeiture as you suggest.
      Most small time drug raids are not done with violent SWAT type action. It would be very interesting to see if there is something else going on or if some cops just dig that sort of stuff. A SWAT raid on a family that might be growing a little pot is clearly more dangerous for both the police and the victim (because that’s all anyone arrested for a victimless crime is) than a knock on the door.

      1. Zeb, those studies have been done. Over 80% of SWAT raids in most localities are to serve low level drug warrants. It is well documented in Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in this subject.

  17. Serves those hippie right, taking an interest in their children’s education. Won’t do that no more.

  18. I remember reading this last year. The thing you didn’t mention is, these people were also former CIA employees, and much more educated than the average joe. They were going to be more proactive and pursue the cause of this raid than most people.

  19. Why would somebody be throwing out wet marijuana ?

  20. We’d all be better off if the police focused on crimes that have actual victims!

    Does anyone honestly believe that wasting $20 Billion and arresting 3/4 Million Americans annually for choosing a substance Scientifically proven to be safer than what the govt allows, is a sound policy?

  21. Mr. Sullum, it appears that you don’t know the accepted definitions of the word “hilarious”. False positives that give jack booted thugs probable cause to shoot your dogs is not among those definitions.

  22. TITLE 18, U.S.C., SECTION 242

    Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

  23. “like some sort of police state.”??
    There’s no doubt about it – it IS a police state we are living under with these storm troopers attacking citizens over marijuana, which is far less dangerous than alcohol. They have even shot people in mistaken raids. Things are totally out of control with our failed “War on Drugs”.

  24. They should sue everyone involved and make it their mission in life to destroy all their careers.

  25. Here is a warning for you. ALWAYS GET IT IN WRITING! Years ago one of my son’s little friends left my front gate open and my two young husky dogs got out without my knowledge. Next thing I know the dog catcher is at my door with a ticket as they had killed some loose chickens down the road. It was obvious that I had a fenced yard & dogs were tagged so I offered to replace the chickens if he gave me the name of the people. He did & I did, but I still had to go to court. Once there I was sent to the wrong court room. After 3 hours waiting they came & got me; said all charges were dismissed in light of the fact that recompense had been made & I could go home. I had never seen the judge.
    I said fine but I want it in writing. They baulked; but I insisted.
    SIX WEEKS later on a SUNDAY when no lawyers or judges are available; here comes the sheriff with a WARRANT for my arrest. I was home alone with two small children. When I told him charges had been dismissed he said he had to take me in anyway because that is not what his paperwork said. I was able to produce the PROOF he needed and avoided a traumatic night in jail & separation from my kids.

  26. I lived in Missouri for a year, a year longer than anyone should ever have to. The police out there are to busy harassing people who are innocent than busting the meth heads that have taken over a good portion of the state. I for one will never ever go back to Missouri and will even try to drive around just to avoid the backwards uselss police there.

  27. So I guess you folks approve of our home state, MA, decrim (Soros paid for the effort)…..good to hear!

    Maybe there is hope. The current Drug War was started by Nixon (GOP) and put into high gear by Reagan (AKA “God”, GOP).

    Many tens of millions of people have been destroyed by this farce.

    To all the so-called “socons” out there, please explain why most of the “red” states seem to have the more regressive drug policies. Wouldn’t you think those bastions of Patriotic Americans would have stopped this BS long ago?

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