Pubdate: Wed, 12 Nov 2003
Source: Free Times (SC)
Copyright: 2003 Free Times
Author: Michael Graham
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)
Bookmarks: (Goose Creek raid)
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


"I'll utilize whatever forces I deem necessary to keep this campus safe and 
clean ... I'm sure it was an inconvenience to those individuals who were in 
the hallway, but there is a valuable experience there."

- --George McCrackin, principal of Stratford High School in Goose Creek

When I saw the videotape of armed police officers waving their loaded guns 
at the heads of cowering high schoolers at Stratford High School in Goose 
Creek, my first thought was, 'George McCrackin must be in heaven right 
now.' I know 'Goose-Steppin' George' from my days as a talk host on WSC in 
Charleston. He became part of the Michael Graham Experience by kicking 
honor students out of school because they didn't have their shirts tucked 
in. No, that's not a joke ... not an intentional one, anyway. George 
McCrackin is the kind of bureaucrat who believes that stupidity in the 
pursuit of order is no vice. In his universe, an exposed shirttail is a 
flag of rebellion, an ominous sign of impending anarchy, mob violence and 
the reading of unauthorized literature.

Rumor has it that at one point McCrackin wanted a school uniform policy at 
Stratford, but he couldn't find enough brown shirts or red armbands. How 
absolutely in his element he must have been on that fateful morning, 
monitoring the 70(!) surveillance cameras he uses to spy on his students, 
as the Goose Creek police moved into to roust the unsuspecting teens. 
According to media reports, McCrackin himself watched as the students 
assumed what he called 'their usual positions' before personally signaling 
the officers to spring their trap. McCrackin even patted down some of the 
suspects and questioned them about the money in their pockets. If only 
Berkeley County had given him a riding crop and let him throw a few kids to 
'The Hole,' George McCrackin would be the happiest man on earth.

Of course, he didn't act alone. In order to put the children of Berkeley 
County in real danger, McCrackin needed the cooperation of poorly led 
police officers with a near-criminal lack of judgment: enter the Goose 
Creek Police Department.

The Goose Creek cops defend their decision to aim loaded weapons at unarmed 
school kids by insisting that, theoretically, there could have been some 
sort of danger, even though they had no evidence or reports of potential 
violence. 'Anytime you have qualified information regarding drugs and large 
amounts of money, there's a reasonable assumption weapons are involved,' 
Lt. Dave Aarons said.

The argument is undermined by the fact that no drugs or money were found. 
The Goose Creek police: too dumb to catch you, just dumb enough to shoot you.

And would it be rude to point out that there is a theoretical danger of 
running into a weapon virtually anywhere the police go? What, do the Goose 
Creek cops kick in the door of the Dunkin' Donuts with their guns out, too? 
When George McCrackin and the cops defend their gun-slinging as 'zero 
tolerance,' the only response is laughter: The same people who would kick 
out a Stratford senior for brandishing a plastic spork in the cafeteria are 
now waving loaded weapons in the halls. There is only one response a 
rational adult can have to the images of this idiotic police behavior we 
saw on our TV screens, and that is outrage ' pure and unbounded. Why then 
is there so little of it? Because we're not talking about rational adults. 
We're talking about South Carolinians. The people of South Carolina never 
met a kid who couldn't use a swift kick in the britches. So what if they 
got a gun in the face. Do 'em some good! What did George McCrackin call it 
' a 'valuable experience?' Damn straight!

'I'm sure students were frightened, but the harm they're in with drug 
dealers is far greater than the police coming in,' said one Goose Creek 
mother, seemingly unaware that no druggies were caught. 'I trust them to do 
what's right,' she said. Even when it's obviously wrong. Another local 
woman called a Lowcountry radio show to say the raid would have been 
justified even if one of the students had been shot. How little these 
parents must think of their children. I imagine for a moment that it was my 
child crouched on the floor, one slight finger movement away from death ' 
all for no good reason ' and I burn with anger. I try to imagine what this 
principal and his police officers would say if it were their sons and 
daughters literally under the gun. It wasn't, of course. It never would 
have been. Yes, George McCrackin's two children attend Stratford, but like 
most of the students at Stratford, they're white. The vast majority of the 
kids rousted in the hall were black.

And so it goes ... With no drugs, no arrests and facing an avalanche of 
well-deserved lawsuits, Berkeley County and the cops have fallen back to 
the lamest of defenses: that the raid was worth it no matter what the 
consequences because it 'sent a message' to the students.

It sure did. They know now beyond a reasonable doubt that the people in 
authority over them are both dangerous and stupid. And given their parents' 
support for these two principles, there are few prospects that conditions 
will change any time soon.
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