Marijuana

The Literal War on Drugs

The promiscuous use of SWAT teams is a bigger menace than armored vehicles on our streets.

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Contrary to what you may have heard, the armored vehicles that appeared on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, during the unrest that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown did not come from the Pentagon. "Most of the stuff you are seeing in video coming out of Ferguson is not military," Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Defense Department's press secretary, told reporters last week. "The military is not the only source of tactical gear in this country."

In other words: Don't blame the military for militarizing the police. Kirby has a point. Although the Pentagon has played a role by distributing surplus gear to police departments, so have the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security by providing grants that can be used to buy military-style equipment. In any case, the real problem, more pervasive and insidious than BearCats or MRAPs on the streets of our cities, is the dangerously misguided urge to transform cops into soldiers, as reflected in the promiscuous use of SWAT teams.

As the acronym implies, SWAT teams originally were intended for unusual threats requiring "special weapons and tactics," threats such as rioters, shooters, barricaded suspects, and hostage takers. But what was once special is now routine. Today the most common use for SWAT teams, which are deployed something like 50,000 times a year in the U.S., is serving search warrants, typically in drug cases.

Looking at a sample of more than 800 SWAT operations carried out by 20 law enforcement agencies in 11 states during the last three years, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that 79 percent involved search warrants. More than three-quarters of the searches were looking for drugs.

These raids tend to follow the same basic pattern: Heavily armed, black-clad men enter a home early in the morning, while the occupants are asleep. The police often break down the door with a battering ram, shatter windows, and toss in a flashbang grenade, an explosive device designed to discombobulate targets with a blinding light and deafening noise. If there is a dog in the home that barks at the invaders (as dogs tend to do), the police kill it.  

The element of surprise and the overwhelming, terrifying show of force are supposed to minimize violence by forestalling any thought of resistance. It does not always work out that way.

Last December a Texas marijuana grower named Henry Magee shot and killed a Burleson County sheriff's deputy who broke into his mobile home in the middle of the night along with eight other officers. Magee said he mistook Sgt. Adam Sowders for a burglar, and in February a grand jury declined to indict him in the deputy's death.

Six months before Magee shot Sowders, a similar mistake resulted in the death of Eugene Mallory, an 80-year-old retired electrical engineer who was shot in his bed because he grabbed a gun when armed men stormed into his home early in the morning. They were Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, looking for a nonexistent meth lab.

Last May police in Habersham County, Georgia, broke into a house in the middle of the night, looking for a meth dealer who no longer lived there. While attacking the house, the SWAT team tossed a flashbang grenade into a crib, severely burning a 19-month-old boy.

No drugs or weapons were found in that raid, which seems to be a pretty common outcome. In the ACLU study, records indicated that police found the drugs or guns they expected 35 percent of the time. The low rate of gun recovery is especially striking because the use of SWAT teams is supposedly justified by the prospect of facing armed and dangerous suspects.

The reckless use of paramilitary forces to attack the homes of unsuspecting civilians reflects a literalization of the war on drugs as well as the unseemly eagerness of many police officers to dress up and act like soldiers. Taking away their BearCats will not solve those problems.

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  1. …the real problem,…is the dangerously misguided urge to transform cops into soldiers…

    If you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about.

    1. Yes. Just ask that baby who was burned in the crib.

      1. That baby was a victim of drug culture and its parents should have been prosecuted for endangerment.

        1. Bullshit. The cops should have been shot in the face with a bazooka for what they did. The politicians that decided to shoot you for smoking pot should be water boarded continuously and then thrown into prison.

          1. step away from the keyboard jeff…re-examine your sarc detector…

            1. I’ve noticed the comments section here at Reason is nothing but sarcasm. Perhaps that’s why many people read the posts, but avoid the comments section.

              It’s hard to take people seriously when everything is a joke to them. It’s like a group of junior high kids posting here.

              Take care.

              1. I’ve noticed the comments section here at Reason is nothing but sarcasm.

                For many people, sarcasm is a defense mechanism against the realities of a world gone to shit that no one can change or do anything about. It’s either sarcasm, or massive alcohol consumption, and considering how many people comment while at work, massive alcohol consumption is out. Ever wonder why the comments dry out in the evening? It’s because all the commenters are out getting drunk.

                It’s hard to take people seriously when everything is a joke to them. It’s like a group of junior high kids posting here.

                You deal with this shit your way, which apparently involves getting all butthurt about a few sarcastic comments, we’ll deal with this shit our way. Lighten up, Francis.

                1. For many people, sarcasm is a defense mechanism against the realities of a world gone to shit that no one can change or do anything about.

                  This. Black humor has always been the solace of the little people.

                  1. So you’re calling black people little?! That’s racist!

                    /sarc…just in case

              2. Humor is a way of coping with the organized insanity that is our government.

                  1. They seem to be able to get a posse together pretty quick.

              3. When you read enough you generally start recognizing the names and positions they take.

                Plenty of serious conversation, but if you don’t have gallows humor about the statist society we live it would be all tears and no laughter.

        2. Spineless religious pussies such as yourself should move to saudi arabia… I hear they love sheep pussies over there.

      2. The baby was resisting!

        1. STOP RESISTING!!
          BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!
          STOP RESISTING!!
          BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

          Good shoot.
          hth, smooches

    2. Cops now have to fear all you ammosexuals with your arsenals. Sure, you are not criminals until you actually fire the shots, but you can’t expect law enforcement to be less armed than “reasonable” citizens…and since many “logical” citizens own thousands of rounds and dozens of dangerous guns, why should cops have peashooters?

      This is the libertarian world. Wink Wink……hundreds of millions of guns = big profits, fear-based culture and a military law enforcement.

      It’s what you wanted. Stop complaining.

      1. we should have more media outlets fallow the money and who’s getting rich off these schemes. Weapons manufacturers and dealers and lobbyists are running and ruining our country.

        It would be nice if the Pentagon did an audit and disclosed who was getting the lions share of its contracts.

  2. the unseemly eagerness of many police officers to dress up and act like soldiers.

    Perhaps if officers were required to dress up like Disney princesses they would act nicer during these raids.

    1. It would be effective, too, as the people being served a warrant would collapse in helpless laughter.

      1. I think that’s an excellent idea. Paint their MRAPS pink with daisies like a 60s hippie van and no more black or camo BDUs. They wear nothing but pastels. It’s sure to have a calming effect on everyone.

  3. Millenials, militarization, millenials, militarization. I’m losing track of who’s winning in the article count…

        1. Ass-Sex

        2. *bzzt* you were supposed to use an alliterative term, the correct ripose was ‘Marijuana’. Two comment penalty.

    1. gay abortion

  4. Depressingly few people I talked with about the mess in Ferguson were able to make the connection between the protests and rioting and the drug war.

    1. For most people the drug war is something that happens to other people. Specifically poor minorities and white trash. Nothing going to change until a lot more upstanding middle class citizens get caught up in it.

      IOW, not until things have degraded to the point of there being nothing anyone can do about it and we’ve completely devolved into a toltalitarian police state.

      1. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robbin Williams et al never had to worry about cops beating down their doors when they were buying or holding on to stashes of cocaine and heroin; neither do students and expensive prestigious colleges and universities.

        Granted, it’s the violence associated with cash only street sales that forces street dealers, to arm themselves. If you’re a poorly uneducated black or latino kid carrying $200-$1000+ at any given time, you’re a constant mark for getting robbed in the ghetto, especially since you don’t have recourse to have the police help you.

    2. Even fewer make the connection between our “libertarian” gun and gun commerce policies and the drug war, the immigrant (children) problems, the SWAT problems (armed cops are needed for heavily armed populace) and most all of our other armed conflicts around the world.

      Live by the sword and die by it. I would think all of you approve. Survival of the fittest and best armed.

      1. There is no “connection” between libertarian gun policies and the War on (Non-Corporate) Drugs.
        Did you miss the part where drugs and/or guns are found in barely 35% of the raids?

        If there was a connection. . . there’d be a LOT more guns being found – in the 90-100% range.

        Troll fail.

    3. The media has no interest in drawing direct lines to causes and solutions based on statistical and historical facts. They make more money dragging things out, trying to insert themselves in place of our courts, inflaming racial tensions (in many cases, where little exists), and adopting the mob mentality of egging on school yard fights (cops v blacks) as long as it sells advertising.

      Black folks LOVE Popo because it’s black folks who are largely the people making the 911 calls about drugs and violence in our communities. Occasionally, regrettably, there are mishaps, but alls fair in love and the war on drugs.

      1. I think it’s the cops shooting unarmed people that starts the tension fully WITHOUT the use of alleged media propaganda. The police have interlopers embedded in many movements across the country, like occupy, etc. Tell us more about your views on Black Folks and the other poopoo you spewed as I find your ignorance fascinating and formidable in it’s scope. Kind of makes me wish you become a regrettable “mishap” someday.

  5. who is going to protect people from,drugs,raw milk,imported wood ,packaged seafood,lemonade stands,and boy’s saying bang ,bang on the playgrounds?Huh,who?

    1. Blissful silence.

      Unless you’re in the Whoverse, then you don’t want either Bliss or Silence anywhere near you…

    2. Well, it sure won’t be the militarized police. All that equipment and they couldn’t even stop looting.

      1. All that equipment and they couldn’t even stop looting.

        Don’t bring asset forfeiture into this too…

      2. Why would they stop looting? That’s a crime with a victim. They don’t give a shit about that.

      3. Well, they might have been able to stop the looting if they had bothered to try, but they were more interested in assaulting the protestors.

        1. The media, fanning the flames of confusion and animosity with one sided coverage, literally recorded many of the looters, did they turn the videos over to police?

      4. looters may be armed,bake sales and barber sops are much safer venues.Officer safety is job one

      5. All that equipment and they couldn’t even stop looting.

        Obviously they need a lot more of that equipment then!

        /statist

      6. You’ll notice the police department building wasn’t looted.

  6. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Defense Department’s press secretary, told reporters last week. “The military is not the only source of tactical gear in this country.”

    So where can I buy a MRAP or a Bearcat? I think the military is the only place to get them, no matter who is the middle-man.

    1. You can get them from Navistar.

      1. Will they be the ones to unleash Sinistar on us?

      2. Is that who sends the cops if my GM car crashes?

        1. Well, you did just damage a Government Motor, so you’ve commited a crime…

      3. Navistar…serving terrorist world wide since 9/11

      1. I stand corrected. I did like the MXT?-MVA-IS and the JOINT LIGHT TACTICAL VEHICLE.

        May have to get one to replace the Charger.

        1. Concur, I’m partial to the SOTV, you just may not like the sticker price or the Ops/Mx bill…

          1. I wonder if the State of CO, or any state, would plate one?

    2. methinks the Adm was quibbling. The military isn’t a source in this case since they were bought w/ DHS grant money (from the same suppliers the DoD uses) not DoD/Afgh hand-me-downs.

    3. That is true. But other than the vehicles and some of the weapons, there is a huge tactical gear market. Websites that sell AR-15 accessories and the like cater to police and often have discounts for them. This is why you see newer, more expensive gear on police than on soldiers. (Of course, their gear is also clean with little to no wear-and-tear.)

      1. Of course, their gear is also clean with little to no wear-and-tear.

        Heh.

        1. Heh

          Cops’ gear Swiss Miss.

      2. I wonder, how much military gear would there be without the vast R&D and purchase expenditures of government? Most individuals and groups would never choose to spend scarce resources on developing and MRAP.

  7. …the real problem,…is the dangerously misguided urge to transform cops into soldiers…

    The real problem is making minor misdemeanors, consensual and victimless crimes punishable by summary execution.

    1. Those crimes create the situations, but the executions are always for failure to obey.

      1. So you are both right.

    2. I think the real problem is that the guard/attack dogs are let off the leash.

  8. From yesterday’s post about the kid in Kansas the cops shot sixteen times:

    “They reacted based upon the training that they’ve been given from the academy,” Butler said. “We were thankful that no officer was injured from protecting themselves from risk of great bodily harm.”

    I read that as, “Thank goodness none of the executioners in our circular firing squad were hit by frendly fire, because that would have been a tragedy. Nobody gives a fuck about that kid.”

    1. Hey, the county attourney was nice enough to say, “Sorry your kid was perforated, but dem’s da berries.”

      1. as I said before,officer safety is job one

        1. And two. And three. And four…

  9. lol, thats some funyn stuff dude.

    http://www.CryptAnon.tk

    1. – 8

      Ana bot is backsliding

  10. ” In any case, the real problem, more pervasive and insidious than BearCats or MRAPs on the streets of our cities, is the dangerously misguided urge to transform cops into soldiers, as reflected in the promiscuous use of SWAT teams.”

    No shit.

    “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

    Were any of the fuckwits who voted for Obama actually listening to him before the pulled the lever for him?

  11. I kid you not here.
    SWAT just killed a relation of mine (by a 2nd marriage)

    It goes almost without saying that this occurred in a bumfuck Southern state where everyone is far right wing and guns are prevalent. His dad had a gun….which he got a hold of (he had issues). SWAT came in – got impatient after a bunch of hours ( no hostages, no danger to public, etc) and tear gassed the kid then shot him in the back – inside his own two room house.

    No, dad is no blood relation to me. In fact, dad was a ex-cop.

    Of course, in the Koch Cato world this would all end up just as bad or worse because the treatment of mental health should not cost the rest of us who are sane, right? It’s much less costly to kill them.

    1. Not at the price the gun and weapons contractors sell bullets and weapons to the militarized Popo. It might be cheaper to put them in jail for $30k-$40k per year.

    2. You are a misinformed bigot, and your story doesn’t ring true.

  12. If there really was a war on drugs….why has Afghani heroin production and distribution sky-rocketed since we invaded? This is a war on people…nothing else.

  13. Give a ignorant feral pig a gun and something is going to die.

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