Pubdate: Mon, 27 Jun 2011
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2011 Evelyn Reisenwitz
Author: Evelyn Reisenwitz
Note: Second of 2 letters


I completely agree with Ms. O'Grady that the war on drugs has utterly
failed. I disagree, however, with her assertion that the perpetrators
of this war have reached a "new low" by valuing drug busts over human
life. The blithe acceptance of collateral damage in the form of
needless death has been an unfortunate component of the drug war for
some time.

Consider the steep rise in the use of SWAT teams to serve search and
arrest warrants, half of which are related to nonviolent crimes. The
use of SWAT teams raises the stakes, putting innocent homeowners in a
difficult position. Consider Cheryl Lynn Noel of Baltimore County. A
SWAT team broke into her home in 2005 after marijuana seeds were found
in her garbage can. She was shot and killed by agents who found her in
her bedroom holding a pistol. Then there is Kathryn Johnson of
Atlanta, who opened fire on unannounced police officers who returned
lethal fire. This 2006 raid produced a small amount of marijuana as
well as a needless death. Finally, consider Jose Guerena of Pima
County, Ariz. Mr. Guerena, a Marine veteran, went for his AR-15 when
he thought his home was being invaded. A SWAT team entered his house
and fired 71 rounds before Mr. Guerena disengaged the safety on his
rifle. His house was searched and nothing illegal was found.

In each of these examples, enforcement officers created the very
violence they congratulate themselves for defusing. The cost of these
exchanges can be measured in lives, making human collateral business
as usual in the war on drugs.

Evelyn Reisenwitz

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