Pubdate: Mon, 01 May 2000
Date: 05/01/2000
Source: Morning News of Northwest Arkansas (AR)
Author: Denele Campbell

Recent outcry over the methods by which Elian Gonzalez was returned to
his father has resulted in Congressman Hutchinson voicing his "shock"
and calling for hearings.

The congressman wants to know whether excessive force of this kind is
the treatment American citizens should expect from federal

The answer is "yes."

And not only federal authorities, but state and local authorities as

The origins of this practice can be traced directly back to the Reagan
administration, which designated drug trafficking as a
"national-security" threat and encouraged civilian law-enforcement
agencies to take advantage of military assistance.

In 1989, President Bush created regional task forces in the Department
of Defense to act as liaisons between police and the military. As part
of this shift in public policy, Congress ordered the Pentagon to make
military-surplus hardware available to local law-enforcement agencies
for the enforcement of drug laws.

We can now look at the result of these policies, not only in Elian's
experience, but in towns across America. Innocent people are being
killed in predawn invasions of homes by hooded policemen wielding
automatic weapons. Suspects, who our laws state should be considered
innocent until proven guilty, are increasingly murdered by arresting
officers trained in violent methods.

According to a Sept. 12, 1999, article in the Baltimore Sun by Diane
Weber ( ):  "A
soldier does not think; he initiates violence on command and doesn't
worry about Miranda rights. Being a killing machine is necessary to
the survival of the warrior, and to the survival of the nation at war.

"A law-enforcement officer, however, is a citizen like the rest of us
... The job of the police is to react to the violence of others, to
apprehend criminal suspects and deliver them over to a court of law."

What many civil libertarians have long lamented and what Hutchinson is
evidently just now realizing is that training domestic-police forces
to carry out their duties like invading armies cannot help but lead to
inappropriate and grossly excessive use of force.

The public has gone along with this militarization in the misguided
belief that drug users are crazed, armed to the teeth, and unworthy of
the constitutional protections afforded to the "average" American citizen.

Never mind that the vast majority of drug offenders are nonviolent
users, many of which self-medicate for debilitating medical conditions
relieved by the use of marijuana.

Never mind that, once police are trained and equipped like
paramilitary forces, they will act like paramilitary forces, even if
the "enemy" is a little boy or his relatives.

Congressman Hutchinson cites the incident at Waco, Texas, in his call
for hearings. The congressman seems to have forgotten the most
elemental fact about Waco. The whole thing began as an effort to serve
an arrest and search warrant, based on the allegation that the
Davidian complex housed a methamphetamine lab.

Denele Campbell,
West Fork