Pubdate: Thu, 30 Sep 1999
Date: 09/30/1999
Source: Collegiate Times (VA)
Author: John Small

I would like to respond to the Sept. 23 article, "Police state is not
an American dream" and the Sept. 24 article "Drug sentences are
unjust." This response is in total agreement with the points made.

First of all, I voted for Gov. Jim Gilmore, and I have agreed with
most of his policies so far. His announcement of mandatory minimums of
up to 20 years for non-violent drug offenders really disappointed me,
as I thought he had more sense than that.

I guess I was wrong.

To many Republicans, the drug war seems to represent a party dogma
that must be toughened, no matter how little thought has been put into
the various proposals or how little they have worked, or can work.

Surely it would make more sense to solve and prevent more of the
murders that have plagued cities like Richmond in the past than to
push a social engineering agenda that cannot work. Whenever I am in
Richmond, I constantly hear news reports of murders with no suspect or
motive, and now Gilmore wants to create a new 210 member police
division to deal with drug offenses only?

Let's worry about priorities, such as enforcing laws against violent
crime. Let's continue on the path of denying parole for violent
offenders, in addition to increasing sentences for such people.

His proposal is clearly an emotional, politically driven proposal that
is designed to get more Republicans elected in November. This trick
will not work on me.

I have written against the drug war in the past, as I have read too
many stories of people being killed by police during raids that many
times produce no drug findings, of deaths due to turf wars that
duplicate those during the Prohibition Era between competing liquor
dealers, etc. There are also many cases of violent convicts getting a
short sentence or being released too early due to irrational mandatory
minimums for nonviolent drug offenders. This is due to overcrowding in
prison. While the politicians who propose minimums get elected,
society suffers. This is unjust.

Why should it be possible for violent predators to be allowed to roam
the streets in order to imprison people who merely possess the wrong
kind of substance? One can possess as much alcohol or other legal drug
as one wants, but others drugs are not allowed. This is clearly

I think people should not use drugs, but I don't think our current
approach to the problem can work. Treatment is a better option.

Another insane proposal to advance the drug war includes a proposal to
take away financial aid such as in-state tuition from those convicted
of a drug offense, which I disagree with on the grounds that the
penalty would do more harm than good. At this point in history, we
should have learned that education is the best way to advance society,
and this is a step backwards.

Denying financial aid for such a ridiculous charge would make
society's problems worse in the long run. Most times drug use is just
a phase that eventually passes.

The politicians who propose this seem to be in their own little world
and apparently are unaffected by such possibilities.

The writers allegations that the Drug War results in civil liberties
violations needs to be explained more as well. Let me give you a case

A Sept. 6 Washington Post article entitled, "FBI Probes Fatal Drug
Raid in California" reports that on Aug. 9 in El Monte, CA, police
shot and killed Mario Paz, a 64 year old grandfather, when executing a
warrant for marijuana, paraphernalia, money, and/or guns. They found
three handguns, a 0.22 caliber rifle and $10,000 cash.

The guns were there for protection in their high crime neighborhood
and the money was their life savings. The officers, for whatever
reason, broke in when the family was asleep and made a lot of noise,
as they shot the locks off the door and threw in a flash-bang grenade.
Mario thought they were burglars and reached for his gun. This is
certainly what I would do in a situation like this, and I don't expect
anyone else to wait around until they get shot just to see if a
burglar is really a police officer.

Such tactics seem to be excessive use of force, but the problem is
that this is not an isolated incident. There are many cases of
innocent people being shot or scared to death during drug raids by
such cowboy police that crave bloodshed.

I also find it ironic that Republicans, who are generally concerned by
the government violence at Waco, don't seem to care about violence in
drug raids.

The two are not unrelated scenarios.

The bigger problem in the El Monte case is the fact that they had

"aggressive anti-drug program" which makes such violence inevitable.
So this is the reason why, in my view, this war violates civil liberties.

In closing, I would like to point out that it took one event, the St.
Valentine's Day Massacre, to provide the catalyst that ended

When will we see the light about the drug war?

John Small