Pubdate: Fri, 01 Feb 2008
Source: Gonzaga Bulletin, The (US WA EDU)
Copyright: 2008 The Gonzaga Bulletin
Author: Ryan Langril
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


A couple weeks ago police raided the house of a man in Chesapeake,
Va., on the suspicion that the home contained a hydroponic marijuana
growing operation. A single officer forcibly entered the house,
unannounced, in plainclothes - and was shot and killed by the
frightened owner, who had reported a robbery the previous week. The
hydroponic marijuana plants turned out to be Japanese Maples. The
police entered only on the word of a single informant and did not try
to get a confirmation before raiding the house. Nevertheless, the man
sits in jail charged with first-degree murder.

Last year, in Atlanta, a SWAT team entered the home of a 92-year-old
woman, again unannounced. Again they were mistaken for burglars and
confronted by the homeowner, but this time the woman was the victim.
After the team shot her, they handcuffed her and left her to bleed to
death while planting drugs in what they discovered to be an innocent
woman's basement.

These two horrific scenarios are a result of the way the War on Drugs
has morphed from a well-intentioned campaign to discourage drug use
into a war against American citizens, a war in which we are not even
awarded the noncombatant rights our soldiers give to foreign
civilians. The use of SWAT teams, police paramilitary units, has
become commonplace in raids against non-violent, suspected drug users
and dealers.

The United States used to be a place where its citizens didn't have to
fear the government, proudly standing in contrast to the USSR and its
terrifying secret police. We can't honestly say that today. This
misbegotten War on Drugs has shown how frightening unrestricted police
can be. The men and women who are sworn to protect American citizens
have been trained to view some neighborhoods as war zones. One sheriff
in Georgia claims the conventional method of warrants and arrests is
not working and plans military-like occupation of homes.

"We want to change our strategy. We want to make this more like a
Normandy invasion," Clayton County (Ga.) Sheriff Victor Hill said,
evoking the image of a campaign to capture an objective regardless of
human losses.

Problems with this war are abundant. Perhaps the largest is that that
it perpetuates itself. The more brutal and ruthless we allow vice
squads to become, the more lucrative the drug market becomes. The
increased profitability in the drug market gives incentives to drug
lords to counter the police in increasingly violent ways and to push
drugs in more oppressive ways, creating an unwinnable situation for
the police.

The harder the police fight, the more profitable drugs become. The
government creates both enemies and discards our rights in order to
keep us from making bad personal decisions. The right for us to be
secure in our homes and persons against unreasonable searches and
seizures is a necessary one; but to protect us from dangerous
marijuana growers the government sees fit to subject us to spontaneous
raids on the mere presupposition of guilt.

The War on Drugs has become a war against the American people and it
must stop. There's no virtue in drug use, but the damage that the
reckless disregard the government shows in pursuing a win-or-die
strategy only fuels the fire and pocketbooks of its enemies and leaves
innocent civilians and police officers as collateral damage in an
unwinnable war with unclear objectives.

Ryan Langrill is a senior at Gonzaga.
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