Pubdate: Mon, 1 May 2000
Source: Morning News of Northwest Arkansas (AR)
Copyright: 2000, Donrey Media Group
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 authorities.

The answer is "yes."

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

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
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