What Tyranny Looks and Sounds Like

This video, and in particular the audio, needs to be distributed far and wide.  It should be on every evening news broadcast tonight.  It depicts what real, actual tyranny looks like, and how it has become a regular, everyday occurence in the United States of America. 

What is so remarkable about this video is precisely that it is so unremarkable, depicting something that happens up to 40,000 times a year.  Indeed, perhaps nothing proves how common this is more than the calm, cool, and thoroughly routine manner in which the agents of tyranny carry out their task, quickly disposing of the family dogs (one of which was a corgi) and filling the victim’s home with bullets within, literally, moments.  All in front of what looks to be the victim’s six or seven year old son.

The cops did recover a “small” amount of marijuana though, which was apparently enough to charge the parents with child endangerment.  Somehow, the people who riddled that child’s home with bullets, killed that child’s pets, and forcibly removed that child’s father – all while the child was looking – were not charged with child endangerment. 

When the government has the right to bust into tens of thousands of homes in the middle of the night, unannounced, with guns drawn and in full military armor, to take the life of beloved family members, and to menace 6-year old children, all because the homeowner is believed to possess a few grams of a plant or a non-explosive substance, tyranny cannot be said to be on the way.  It’s already here.  And President Obama wasn’t the one who created it, either. 

I will believe that conservatives and the American Right view the words “liberty” and “tyranny” as something other than politically effective platitudes when they make putting an end to 40,000 raids like this a year a higher priority than whether they are taxed to provide someone else with health care or the unrealized hypothetical consequences of cap and trade.

FYI: I’ve embedded the video below the fold, but you should still read the Radley Balko post above.

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100 thoughts on “What Tyranny Looks and Sounds Like

  1. Why did they have to shoot the dogs? I mean its just the smallest part of the sheer horror and stupidity of this, but really – why shoot the dogs?

    I’m very angry, and what makes me most angry is that technically this is not tyranny. Tyranny is the imposition of improperly made law, a tyrant being someone who obtains power improperly. This is not that – this is the consequence of legitimate law, properly made by the people’s duly elected representatives and command general popular support. That’s really the worst thing.

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  2. Pingback: Creeping tyranny and the war on drugs - E.D. Kain - American Times - True/Slant

  3. I’d be curious to hear what the purpose of the raid was? What did the police believe they were going to find? Was this bad intel or a SWAT team that wanted to try out their toys?

    I also think some perspective is in order. I’m imagining how we would feel with the same situation and instead they found a working meth lab in the bathroom and a large quantity of product.

    Child endangerment?

    Check.

    Intent to distribute?

    Check.

    Justifiable use of force on the adults in the residence?

    Maybe.

    Still bummed about the dogs either way but my sympathy for the humans decreases dramtically.

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    • @Mike at The Big Stick, maybe they were planning to plant a bomb in Times Square!

      Or fly a plane into it!

      The official charges were, and I’m quoting Balko here:

      They found a “small amount” of marijuana, enough for a misdemeanor charge. The parents were then charged with child endangerment.

      Read Balko’s original post here:

      http://reason.com/blog/2010/02/27/swat-team-endangers-child-pare

      Maybe they were like the Rosenbergs and were going to sell nuclear secrets to the Russians!

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        • @Mike at The Big Stick, here is the article from the newspaper:

          http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010/feb/23/family-questions-swat-drug-search-that-led-to/

          I’ll quote the second paragraph in its entirety:

          A police SWAT team entered Whitworth’s residence around 8:30 p.m. suspecting a large amount of marijuana at the location, police spokeswoman Officer Jessie Haden said. SWAT members encountered a pit bull upon entry, held back and then fatally shot the dog, which officers said was acting in an uncontrollably aggressive manner.

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          • @Jaybird, Good – so that’s what I wanted to know. They suspected a crapload of weed. So my personal experience/opinion is that weed dealers and growers are a pretty harmless bunch of folks so in that case the police response was way over-the-top. The question then is, would we feel the same about a crackhouse or a meth lab? I suspect the experience of police officers in busting those operations is a lot different than busting a house full of pot plants. I’m not a cop so I’d love it if someone could explain how they determine the force levels for various drug busts. Is it a universal policy to call in a SWAT team or is situation-specific? Does it depend on who they believe is inside?

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            • @Mike at The Big Stick, what if they were 19 guys living in an apartment and all they had were box cutters and copies of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator? AND WHAT IF IT WERE AUGUST 2001???

              It’s easy to say that the police ought to be more careful but thousands of lives would be saved if these cops kicked down the right door.

              You can’t deny that, can you?

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              • @Mike at The Big Stick , I was coming up with hypothetical scenarios that would justify the gross injustice we see in the video rather than dealing with the facts that the police *THEMSELVES* have offered as justification for what they did.

                I don’t understand the point of that either but, hey. When in Rome.

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              • @Mike at The Big Stick , I’ve gotta say, I’m beginning to wonder if I wouldn’t rather take my chances with universal open carry and having to deal with the criminals instead.

                Out of curiosity, is what happened in the video ever justified for a “large amount of marijuana”?

                Remember: That’s what the cops themselves say they were looking for. I presume that that is what is written on the warrant else they would have said “we thought the guy was vivisecting prostitutes in his basement and, worse than that, making meth!”

                (Another thing to think about: What do you suppose the lower boundary for “felony amount of marijuana” is in the state of Mississippi? He was arrested for an amount below that boundary.)

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              • @Jaybird, Jaybird – as I stated, I think the response was completely unjustified for any amount of weed. I don’t know that it would be unjustified for cocaine distribution operation. I do believe that each drug has a unique type of criminal that is involved. I also think goegraphy plays a factor. You bust a weed-growing operation here in Lousville and you’ll catch a bunch of stoners. You try to bust one in Eastern KY and you might get killed. There IS a difference.

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              • @Mike at The Big Stick , sure.

                But that’s not what happened here, is it? Worse than that is the nagging question of the 40,000 times a year that this happens… and whether the majority are like what we see in the video or whether the majority are like a meth lab or similar atrocity that would justify shooting a pet.

                My theory is that most of the busts are of pitiful, harmless people.

                Just like under Prohibition.

                The Scarface types with arsenals of machine guns make enough money to pay off the cops and send them off to the home of some poor schlub who probably doesn’t have enough product to merit a felony charge.

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        • @Mike at The Big Stick, additionally, a commenter at Hit and Run claimed to have emailed the police department in question and asked about the incident.

          I have no way to verify whether or not he did or whether or not what he claims is the response actually is the response. That said, it seems somewhat credible. The comment in full follows:

          http://reason.com/blog/2010/05/05/video-of-swat-raid-on-missouri#comment_1691357

          Here is an e-mail I received in response to my e-mail to the police department that conducted the raid.

          “Your citizen feedback e-mail was forwarded to me. Our Internal Affairs Unit is conducting an investigation into the incident that you wrote us about. While the video was released upon request, since the defendant’s criminal case is complete, the internal investigation is not complete. Once it is, the department will issue a Media Release explaining the incident, the investigation, and the findings. The complete information that is issued in a media release is often too lengthy to be included in every news article or story, and so sometimes those articles or stories don’t provide readers or viewers the context or content they are interested in. Because of that, I encourage citizens to go to the City’s website at gocolumbiamo.com and read the entire press release(s) there, as they are always posted to the website.

          “Just so you know, the dog was not in a cage.

          “Jessie”

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      • @sidereal, No – it’s a completely debateable point. While I suspect 100% of the commenters here believe this was excessive force and the charges were crap for a bag of weed, we would not agree that is the case for a meth lab.

        If the point of discussion is over-zealous police work in the War on Drugs I think we need to debate the seriousness of the different illegal drugs out there and the appropriate police response in each case.

        If the point is that the police are thugs and we’re heading towards fascism…that’s another discussion.

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    • @Mike at The Big Stick, Not really, no. What’s horrifying about this isn’t that they didn’t find anything much, and then slapped life-ruining charges on the family – that’s just the icing on the cake. What’s horrifying is the legitimization of the use of overwhelming and completely disproportionate violence in policing, against people who haven’t even been arrested yet, let alone actually found guilty. It would still be horrifying even if they’d found a meth lab and a garage full of heroin.

      This is what happens when we use the law to try to prevent consensual behaviour. I rarely say it, but this is where the Libertarian boilerplate about Men With Guns is entirely appropriate – making and selling crystal meth is pretty unpleasant behavior as far as I can tell (no personal experience), but it does not even remotely justify busting in someone’s front door, shooting their dogs in front of their kid, riddling their home with bullets and breaking up a family. Its completely disproportionate.

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        • @Mike at The Big Stick, I think the point is that that kind of justification cannot be countanced, no matter what they were looking for. Expecting a meth lab? Well, does it matter that you busted down the door, shot the dogs, terrorized the kids and found a one hitter? After all, they expected a meth lab! Gold stars for everyone.

          So, I guess my answer to your question: if they expected that there would be a meth lab in the house, would it have been acceptable? No, no it wouldn’t have. This isn’t Scarface, there’s no need to come in like this. What is the appropriate ratio for how many pets can be shot and children traumatized per actual meth lab raided?

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            • @Mike at The Big Stick, I would say that the use of force against people who have thus far not offered violent action is inherently unjustified. You may say, “Well, what about the police?” Well, what about them? The last time I checked, the police are better armed and armored than all but the most paranoid-militiaman fanatics. And it seems like that’s the kind of information people involved in investigating crimes ought to have before they go knocking on people’s doors …

              But what about the police, thrust into a dangerous operation? Well, what about them? They’re signed up to be police — no one suggests that firefighters have the right to simply blow up burning buildings because they’re on fire. It’s a dangerous line of duty. Allowing (and excusing) the use of exaggerated force in the commission of police duty just leads to more and more use of exaggerated (and excused) force. It has to stop somewhere.

              Of course, my actual answer is, “The whole legal framework that creates this kind of de facto brutality is wholly unjustified,” but I don’t think that would have answered your question.

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        • @Mike at The Big Stick,

          Change the facts and responses may/will change. To answer your question, my response would be different if it were a meth lab. The problem is that it wasn’t. The initial responses were vindicated. With an utter lack of surprise. If and when facts turn out to be different than expected or if it turns out that we were misinformed, then we need to re-evaluate our perspective on the issue. If there are mitigating circumstances, it’s up to the police to put them out there. I’m not going to assume that everything they do, no matter how bad it looks, might actually be justified. Something like this needs an affirmative case for justification.

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          • @Trumwill, So fine – we all express our collective outrage…

            I guess I’m more interested in moving the ball forward. Assuming most of us believe illegal drug operations should be halted, I’d like hear how the police should do so. Let’s do some citizen-design work on a new field guide to busting drug operations.

            I think an ideal starting point is that the police suspect there is a drug operation inside but it could also be one guy with a joint. They may find one guy playing Nintendo and a Bob Marley record playing in the background or they may be met with gunfire from an AK-47. How do they proceed?

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            • @Mike at The Big Stick,

              I’ve had similar thoughts (see my comment below). Is there any distinction in a warrant between simply executing a search and calling the assault team? If not, I think that it’s something that should be considered. Approaching every situation as though it is someone with an AK-47 is unavoidably problematic.

              It’s sort of like traffic stops in rural areas. Yes, any particular pull-over holds some potential harm for the officer… but we do not expect officers to treat every pullover in the same aggressive fashion as someone whose license plate and physical description match that of someone that just armed-robbed a bank.

              It seems to me that one of the reasons that officers tend to behave more responsibly in one area than the other is that if they treated every pull-over as a potential killer, they’d be manhandling and mistreating people with influence. Here? Well they’re just coming down on “the other”. Potheads. Miscreants. People that were just trouble.

              Yes, there is a differential in terms of likelihood of danger, but you also have a differential in preparedness (these officers are much better protected than is a traffic cop).

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        • @Mike at The Big Stick, I don’t know how meth lab busts generally go down. Do you? Its a serious question – if I were a criminal, the last thing I would want to do is get into a pitched battle with the police – no chance of winning, good chances of dying, then or later, or at least worsening the outcome dramatically. I would, in order of preference: destroy the evidence, run, or go quietly. Given that I’m more-or-less ordinarily cowardly about these things, I suspect that’s what usually happens.

          But okay, for the sake of argument lets say people do sometimes choose suicide-by-cop in these situations. Then it really comes down to this: what is the appropriate role of force in policing? The answer to that is easy – to protect the peace, including suspects, bystanders, the cops themselves.

          So in the absence of any evidence at all of a threat to their lives, were the actions of the police an appropriate in the case where there was a meth lab? No. Overwhelming force is for soldiers. The police are supposed to protect the peace.

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          • @Simon K, there was a meth lab bust in a dive of an apartment that I lived in several years ago. This was how it was described to me: two cops, one on either side of the door. Another cop in the parking lot looking up (second story apartment with an outdoor walkway) and another cop or two scoping out the back. No riot gear and they apparently knocked several times (the guy who described it to me figured that the offender was asleep – it was noon or so).

            So it was something they took pretty seriously, but nothing like shown here. The tip was good and the target guilty.

            Dunno how typical this is. It was a department covering a city of 50k or so, so I’m not sure what kind of riot gear they even had. There was a definite meth problem in the area, though, so they had been through it before. I’m relatively sure they had been through it before in my apartment building. It was that kind of place.

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    • @Mike at The Big Stick, This is from the original news article on this, back in February:
      “A police SWAT team entered Whitworth’s residence around 8:30 p.m. suspecting a large amount of marijuana at the location, police spokeswoman Officer Jessie Haden said.”

      My problem here is not that these cops used far more force than was necessary in this situation. My problem is that our drug laws have created a situation where law enforcement is virtually required to assume that this amount of force is necessary whenever serving a warrant on someone suspected of involvement with the black market drug trade.

      (1) Drugs can be easily flushed down the toilet, so if we’re going to be serious about enforcing our drug laws, we have to allow no-knock raids. (2) Black markets prevent the peaceful enforcement of property rights, so people involved with that black market are highly likely to be well-armed; they’re also likely to be fearful of somebody trying to rob them of their stash. (3) The combination of (1) and (2) means that service of a search warrant in a drug case involves an inordinate potential for violence, since the suspect will have minimal (if any) warning that the people breaking down his door are cops, and even if that warning is adequate, the suspect will have little opportunity to verify that they’re cops. (4) Therefore, to minimize the suspect’s ability to respond violently, it is necessary to serve drug warrants in the same manner as a special ops mission – nothing can be left to chance, and warrants need to be served under the assumption that the suspect is armed and dangerous. (5) Dogs and 90-year old women get killed, kids terrorized, and parents assaulted.

      All because we’ve banned some substances that are for the most part inherently harmful only to the user, and (this is crucial) made enforcement of that ban a top priority.

      There is, however, one thing about this case that might suggest that the cops were acting particularly egregiously: the homeowner does not appear to have been charged with distribution. This should set alarm bells off all over the place, because it severely calls into question the basis for the probable cause in the first place. Clearly, the homeowner did not sell any marijuana to an undercover cop in a sting, and clearly the cops did not have an informant who was willing to testify that the homeowner had sold him marijuana. So what was the basis for the belief that the homeowner not only had some marijuana at his residence, but actually had enough to be considered a dealer?

      And how often are police departments across the country obtaining no-knock warrants for drug dealing on evidence so flimsy that it cannot form a sufficient basis for an indictment by itself?

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          • @Jaybird, that’s part of my point, though. If they actually had a no-knock warrant from a judge, then my criticisms below about how little time they waited for Whitworth to answer the door are somewhat moot. The officers would have actually done more than was required of them and my real beef would have been with the judge or whoever pushed the judge for a no-knock warrant on a pot charge.

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            • @Trumwill, Exactly. And we should certainly review judges lattitude to issue those warrants under various standards of evidence — or just to issue them at all. But they clearly have the authority at this point to do so. It may all be totally intolerable and in need of reform, but that doesn’t make it tyranny (not that you’re saying it is – this is addressed to Mark, but your point is the one I want to raise to him).

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              • @Michael Drew, to me, tyranny is not a case-by-case thing. It’s a verdict on an entire system. I don’t like what was done here, but it appears that the I’s were dotted and the T’s crossed. What’s going on here is that a system is being abused. If it’s something that can be fixed through changes within an established and respected process, it’s something different than what I think of when I think of tyranny.

                (Again, though, I really don’t like what was done here.)

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  4. Simon K,

    I’m not an expert but it does appear that, when it comes to dogs, a “shoot first” policy has become standard practice for many police departments.

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  5. The worst vid I saw, also from Balko, showed a cop coming up to a private residence TO ASK FOR DIRECTIONS (ie. NOT on a raid or any other official activity). A tiny little dog comes bounding up to say hi and the officer coolly draws his pistol and executes it.

    It gets better though – when the owner complained, she was threatened by the department, who didn’t know there was a video. She put the video on YouTube and suddenly the Dept was all apologies. The officer, though, was never punished IIRC.

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  6. Putting aside the completely disproportionate response to a pot bust, here’s one thing that stood out to me:

    They waited less than ten seconds for the guy to open the door or respond. I don’t always answer my door in ten seconds. Even if I know it’s important cause the guy is yelling “Police! Search warrant!” I might go to the back to put my dog (if I had one) up first.

    Watching this video, it appears that the best thing to do is to rush to the door and inform the officers that I need a minute. But would they give me a minute? If I wasn’t near the door and yelled at them to hold on, would they mis-hear what I am saying as some sort of threat? Can I count on them not doing so?

    Presumably, the reason for the quick entrance is so that an offender doesn’t have the opportunity to get a weapon or escape out the back. Assuming the worst-case scenario for every warrant execution (absent some sort of specific reason) is a recipe for disaster.

    I think what jumps out at me here is that, other than having a finger pointed at them for having pot, there really isn’t any clear way they could have avoided the full on assault team busting in and doing what they did.

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    • @Trumwill, what if they had time to flush their meth lab down the toilet?

      Then we wouldn’t be able to arrest anybody.

      An additional part of the problem, for me, is that police acts like this one are punishments in and of themselves. They broke into the home. They killed the dog. They terrorized the family.

      Without a trial.

      After the fact, after they found only minute amounts of marijuana, they had the temerity to charge the guy for child endangerment.

      And, still, we have people whose response is whether this would be appropriate for, say, meth. Maybe prohibition of beer and wine was excessive… but it ought to be in place for gin! Surely you agree with that! Let’s not talk about the people terrorized for beer possession. Let’s talk about gin.

      Argh.

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      • @Jaybird, I suppose if they had waited a full minute, Whitworth would have had the opportunity to flush the small amount of pot they found down the toilet. Then he would have gotten away with everything. A miscarriage of justice…

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  7. at The Big Stick, while I certainly feel that the police have a right to defend themselves, I would say that’s what all those guns and that armor are about. Premptive invasions of unsuspecting people’s homes, shooting animals, and generally terrorizing people stretches my conception of “self-defense” to the breaking point.

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    • @Aaron, So you and I are in agreement there Aaron. The police have superior technology on their side. Now here comes the kicker: What if they had busted in and just tasered the dogs, tossed some flash bangs and sorted it out? No one is permanately harmed and the police have egg on their face for bad intel. In that situation the police used a miminal amount of non-lethal force. Are closer to a level where we can accept it as the SOP for drug busts or do we still need to get to a point where the police go in through the door praying their kevlar works, assess the situation and then decide how to respond?

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      • @Mike at The Big Stick,

        I don’t think it’s anything you can have a conservation about, if you watch that and the first thing you worry about is the cops there is just something very wrong with you.

        I used to love arguing on the internet (pointless as it is), and at some point the arguments got boring, but it became more fascinating to me exactly *what* would get people excited and typing and why.

        The people big on torture that rouse themselves to defend whatever we are doing to our prisoners are a pretty nasty bunch, but they are at least animated by something I can identify with: fear, revenge, etc..

        You watched a fellow citizen have his home busted into, his pets killed in front of his children and the state try to take away his kids because he had a bag of pot in his house and the first thing you thought about was the cops. I hope you at least are law enforcement because the sort of snivelling, bootlicking, authoritarian that would feel this way is horrible to contemplate.

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        • @Ed Marshall, Ed,

          But anyway, just to educate you, I don’t participate in these kinds of debates/discussions in order to engage in some kind of circle jerk with my fellow commenters. We could all post similar comments expressing outrage over a YouTube video and a singular incident and oh, how terrible the police are. Or we could participate in a more productive conversation about what role the police should play in law enforcement. You might want them to do nothing and we could all live in some kind of libertarian utopia. I might want them to shoot first and ask questions later. Or we could try to actually reach an agreement on what IS the appropriate way to enforce our laws as they are currently on the books.

          I didn’t express any kind of automatic sympathy for the police. I asked if anyone knew the background about why they entered with such force and then I asked the reasonable question of when, if ever, the police ARE justified in using that level of force in a drug raid.

          ‘Bootlicking’ was a nice touch…but I would have been more impressed if you had demonstrated adult-level reading comprehension skills.

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          • @Mike at The Big Stick,

            No, you didn’t. I can look chronologically at the comments and see where logic took you. Your gut reaction after viewing that was to rationalize the police behavior and after digesting it a bit more you took a different direction.

            That’s why I care more about “why” than “what” in the study of internet arguments.

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            • @Ed Marshall, *sigh*

              Let’s try again Ed. Some people need their hand held. My very first comment:

              “I’d be curious to hear what the purpose of the raid was? What did the police believe they were going to find? Was this bad intel or a SWAT team that wanted to try out their toys?”

              I don’t think that expresses any sympathy or tolerance for what the police did. It was an attempt to get more info. I then added:

              “I also think some perspective is in order. I’m imagining how we would feel with the same situation and instead they found a working meth lab in the bathroom and a large quantity of product.

              Child endangerment?

              Check.

              Intent to distribute?

              Check.

              Justifiable use of force on the adults in the residence?

              Maybe.

              Still bummed about the dogs either way but my sympathy for the humans decreases dramtically.”

              The point of this second comment was again, not to express any kind of defense of the police for this particular example but to ask the more general question of, “Is this level of force ever justified and would we feel differently if the raid had turned up a distribution operation or large quantities of a more harmful drug?”

              As I said, I’m interested in moving the ball forward and talking about police procedure in general, not participating in a commentary circle jerk.

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  8. Folks – I have to bounce for a few hours – transporting the kids to various weeknight activities. Great discussion. I hope I don’t miss too much until I get back to a PC later this evening.

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  9. Look at all the things that didn’t happen:

    No drugs found other than a small amount of pot.
    No weapons charges.
    No charges related to vicious or uncontrolled dogs.
    No police PR about Whitworth’s previous brushes with the law or the number of firearms found in his house.

    My conclusion is that Whitworth is exactly what he appears to be in the video: an ordinary guy who lives with his wife, child and pets, and indulges in a joint now and then. I would think that some amount of old-fashioned police work could distinguish that guy, who doesn’t, for instance, have a wide variety of visitors to his house all hours of the day and night, and doesn’t seem to have a lot more money that his declared income, from a likely drug dealer. Why doesn’t that happen before the SWAT raid?

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    • @Mike Schilling, What, you want the police to do detective work? We don’t have the money for that! If we had to actually collect facts before busting down someones door, shooting up his house, killing his dogs, terrorizing his family and ruining his life for doing something the cops themselves probably do now and again, where would we be? Bankrupt, that’s where. What are you, soft on crime?

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        • @Bubbaquimby, Now look – with a tank you can bust into hundreds of house. In fact you don’t even need to bust in – if they don’t open the door, just fire in a couple of rounds and job done. Obviously its a far better use of police time and money to buy a tank than to send people plodding around collecting facts. You could spend hours collecting facts and might discover the suspect isn’t a drug dealer at all – total houses crushed and lives destroyed, zero. With a tank you could have blown all kinds of shit up in that time. Obvious tanks are vastly more productive than detective work.

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  10. Pingback: De-Prioritizing Drug Law Enforcement | The League of Ordinary Gentlemen

  11. Pingback: There Are No Words For This « Questing for Atlantis

  12. “And President Obama wasn’t the one who created it, either.

    I will believe that conservatives and the American Right view the words “liberty” and “tyranny” as something other than politically effective platitudes when they make putting an end to 40,000 raids like this a year a higher priority than whether they are taxed to provide someone else with health care or the unrealized hypothetical consequences of cap and trade.”

    No, it was “Drug Czar” Joe Biden, and CHARLES RANGEL: The Front-Line General In The War On Drugs along with countless other Democrats that voted to create the “WAR ON DRUGS.” I will take you seriously when you ask the numerous jackasses sitting in Congress with a D after their name to defend their votes on drug policy. The Republicans and Democrats created the WAR ON DRUGS, and sorry but you liberaltarians have not annexed us libertarians to the American Left.

    Question?
    Which Party controls the Government? What are they doing?
    Giving police forces money to buy freaking tanks.

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  13. My problem here is not that these cops used far more force than was necessary in this situation. My problem is that our drug laws have created a situation where law enforcement is virtually required to assume that this amount of force is necessary whenever serving a warrant on someone suspected of involvement with the black market drug trade.

    (1) Drugs can be easily flushed down the toilet, so if we’re going to be serious about enforcing our drug laws, we have to allow no-knock raids. (2) Black markets prevent the peaceful enforcement of property rights, so people involved with that black market are highly likely to be well-armed; they’re also likely to be fearful of somebody trying to rob them of their stash. (3) The combination of (1) and (2) means that service of a search warrant in a drug case involves an inordinate potential for violence, since the suspect will have minimal (if any) warning that the people breaking down his door are cops, and even if that warning is adequate, the suspect will have little opportunity to verify that they’re cops. (4) Therefore, to minimize the suspect’s ability to respond violently, it is necessary to serve drug warrants in the same manner as a special ops mission – nothing can be left to chance, and warrants need to be served under the assumption that the suspect is armed and dangerous. (5) Dogs and 90-year old women get killed, kids terrorized, and parents assaulted.

    That’s a very good rundown of the problem, I’d say. The trouble is, it seems to me what you’re describing is clearly a legitimately vexing public policy problem that is having increasingly unacceptable outcomes – but outcomes that are at least partially the result of public pressure both to outlaw these substances, and to effectively enforce those laws. That doesn’t, to me, seem like a terribly convincing case that it amounts to tyranny. Presumably this raid, ugly as it is, was carried out in keeping with a lawful court order, otherwise the fact that it wasn’t is what we’d be talking about.

    I share in the policy position you hold out as so strongly compelled by morality here, but I recall you are just a day out from criticizing another blogger for hyperbole in merely misapplying the word “right” to the Miranda protection and invoking the rule of law and the desire on some public officials’ part to establish a Banana republic (the last of which surely was hyperbole, and perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek to boot). I take you to believe your assertion of tyranny here to be neither ironic nor hyperbolic, and given the criticism you voiced yesterday, I find that to be somewhat hard to swallow. This is horrible and needs to be reigned in both in tactics and in evidentiary requirements for warrants for it, but this is what a no-knock raid looks like, and they happen in accordance with law all the time in this country, and it just isn’t tyranny.

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    • …Or at the very least it seems to me you need to say just what your definition and standards of tyranny are in the realm of application of state coercive power as regulated by an independent judiciary, and where the line(s) might be for how we can eliminate tyranny in this area short of you just simply getting your sweeping policy prescription in this area enacted by luck or fiat.

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      • @Michael Drew,
        From the Random House Dictionary:
        “1. arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority.
        2. the government or rule of a tyrant or absolute ruler.
        3. a state ruled by a tyrant or absolute ruler.
        4. oppressive or unjustly severe government on the part of any ruler.
        5. undue severity or harshness.
        6. a tyrannical act or proceeding.”

        The use of power depicted here, and similarly used tens of thousands of times a year, is clearly arbitrary (the amount of force involved is completely disproportionate to the suspected offense) and as a practical matter it is unrestrained. So that’s definition 1. It is also pretty clearly “oppressive or unjustly severe.” So that’s definitions 4 and 5. I’d say definition 6 applies as well, but it’s a circular definition so that doesn’t help much.

        As for prescriptions, my follow-up post makes pretty clear what I think is a very reasonable and common-sense solution.

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          • @Michael Drew, I mean, it happens a hundred times a day, and there’s not a sufficient reaction even to make the news. Apparently we are engaged in a project of upholding tyranny in this country, whether or not we believe we’re upholding liberty.

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              • @Jaybird, It’s great that this is how you view this country — that’s fine. my point is just that you lose a lot of people when you start telling them they uphold tyranny when they instinctively think of this a country that is about liberty. You can instead say, “Look – this is unjust. because we live in a free land, we can;t allow it. We have to address it through the democratic process.” If you just go with, “See?? Tyranny! This might as well be Stalinist Russia!” then you’re just going to sound like a crank and not win many conerts, even though you’re completely right on the issue. It’s just a p.r. thing. Take it or leave it.

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              • @Jaybird, Michael – the reason “tyranny” still works here from a PR perspective is that those most comfortable with the War on Drugs have a habit of being the first to claim that health care reform (also passed by democratic process, etc.) is tyranny. It may be possible to view both as tyranny, but one cannot view HCR as tyranny, look at this video, and still conclude that the War on Drugs is not tyranny or that it is a lesser tyranny than HCR. If one still so concludes, then I would suggest that one’s cries of “tyranny” are mere platitudes.

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              • @Jaybird, I don’t think it’s hyperbole. I mean, if invading someone’s home, shooting their dogs and terrorizing their child because somebody, somewhere said that they might possess a few grams of a plant isn’t “oppressive and unjustly severe government,” the “arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power,” and “undue severity or harshness,” then I don’t know what is.

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              • @Jaybird, Jay, I didn’t figure you would have a problem with that, nor that I’m telling you anything you don’t know to say we live in tyranny.

                Mike – thanks for the clarification. I was confused vis a vis your previous arguments.

                I can see where the definition is satisfied (though the main definitions listed that are satisfied are basically subjective, so I really wouldn’t say I could tell someone else they should see that as well. But I myself think the words themselves match this type of thing.) I’ll admit I wouldn’t have guessed the definition of tyranny was quite so loose. I would have expected elements relating to illegitimacy or unaccountability to be necessary. But no, it’s just unjust harshness. That seems rather likely to occur in any non-anarchy to me, but hey I’m a pessimist. I just am not sure I see the value in construing tyranny in a way that makes it a completely mundane fact of our society, and for at least a few decades now if not throughout our history, no less. Seems like it takes most of the bite out of the term. And if you’re engaging in a project to get your specific ideology embraced by a big-tent party in a country that has up-from-tyranny as its absolutely indispensable foundational myth, I’m not sure I see where it’s a good move. But then, I’m not in that position, and if the shoe fits, which I guess it does, okay I’ll wear it. We’re under tyranny.

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              • @Jaybird, Mark, I guess the argument would be that if this isn’t an act that represents the government’s broad intention, but is rather a regrettable error of some kind, then it might not be unjustly harsh “government,” “government” there understood to be a fair cross-section of its actions rather than just picking out particular egregious examples. But by no means can I say that has to be how the definition need be read, nor can I demonstrate that anyone has admitted this was an error. I do take the incident to be still under review in the jurisdiction, however. That may be out of date info, though.

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  14. Prohibition is a sickening horror and the ocean of incompetence, corruption and human wreckage it has left in its wake is almost endless.

    Prohibition has decimated generations and criminalized millions for a behavior which is entwined in human existence, and for what other purpose than to uphold the defunct and corrupt thinking of a minority of misguided, self-righteous Neo-Puritans and degenerate demagogues who wish nothing but unadulterated destruction on the rest of us.

    Based on the unalterable proviso that drug use is essentially an unstoppable and ongoing human behavior which has been with us since the dawn of time, any serious reading on the subject of past attempts at any form of drug prohibition would point most normal thinking people in the direction of sensible regulation.

    By its very nature, prohibition cannot fail but create a vast increase in criminal activity, and rather than preventing society from descending into anarchy, it actually fosters an anarchic business model – the international Drug Trade. Any decisions concerning quality, quantity, distribution and availability are then left in the hands of unregulated, anonymous, ruthless drug dealers, who are interested only in the huge profits involved.

    Many of us have now, finally, wised up to the fact that the best avenue towards realistically dealing with drug use and addiction is through proper regulation which is what we already do with alcohol & tobacco, clearly two of our most dangerous mood altering substances. But for those of you whose ignorant and irrational minds traverse a fantasy plane of existence, you will no doubt remain sorely upset with any type of solution that does not seem to lead to the absurd and unattainable utopia of a drug free society.

    There is an irrefutable connection between drug prohibition and the crime, corruption, disease and death it causes. If you are not capable of understanding this connection then maybe you’re using something far stronger than the rest of us. Anybody ‘halfway bright’, and who’s not psychologically challenged, should be capable of understanding that it is not simply the demand for drugs that creates the mayhem, it is our refusal to allow legal businesses to meet that demand.

    No amount of money, police powers, weaponry, diminution of rights and liberties, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safer, only an end to prohibition can do that. How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

    If you still support the kool aid mass suicide cult of prohibition, and erroneously believe that you can win a war without logic and practical solutions, then prepare yourself for even more death, corruption, terrorism, sickness, imprisonment, unemployment, foreclosed homes, and the complete loss of the rule of law and the Bill of Rights.

    “A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”
    Abraham Lincoln

    The only thing prohibition successfully does is prohibit regulation & taxation while turning even our schools and prisons into black markets for drugs. Regulation would mean the opposite!

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  15. If you support prohibition then you’ve helped trigger the worst crime wave in history.

    If you support prohibition you’ve a helped create a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped to make these dangerous substances available in schools and prisons.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped raise gang warfare to a level not seen since the days of alcohol bootlegging.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped create the prison-for-profit synergy with drug lords.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped remove many important civil liberties from those citizens you falsely claim to represent.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped put previously unknown and contaminated drugs on the streets.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped to escalate Theft, Muggings and Burglaries.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped to divert scarce law-enforcement resources away from protecting your fellow citizens from the ever escalating violence against their person or property.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped overcrowd the courts and prisons thus making it increasingly impossible to curtail the people who are hurting and terrorizing others.

    If you support prohibition you’ve helped evolve local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, controlling vast swaths of territory with significant social and military resources at their disposal.

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  16. Jay, you can be vague at times, so I’m not sure what you’e reacting to when you say, “Now what?” But if you’re sayng, “Okay, now I’ve rhetorically proved we live in tyranny, now what?” – exactly, that’s my point. What have you got yourself. You’ve won a semantic argument, but likely no one actually *feels* more like they live in tyranny than they already did – and that wasn’t apparently much, because in a country that obsesses ove liberty and tyranny, they weren’t out in the streets over this. So then they’re just like, “Well okay, that asshole just proved we live in tyranny over something I had been like, ‘meh’ about. What am i gonna do about it?” And likely it will be not much, because they resent you and your whole cause, because you’ve shat all over their view of themselves, turning it instantly from stupidly, ignorantly, smugly self-righteous about something they at least pretended to care about (liberty vs. tyranny), to indifferent (“well, I thought I was free, but I guess I ain’t.”) So they just move on.

    If you instead present them with something that is actually in play, say, oh just off the top of my head, maybe, “Justice”? And say, “Look, here’s this injustice that is being carried out in your name! But because this is a society that hears the pleas of the trangressed, and because ti in fact bestows upon you the Liberty to influence actions taken in the public name, and therein lies its collective Liberty, you can do something ABOUT this injustice, and therby preserve that Liberty.” Well, you *might* get a few people to take some action in that cause.

    So yeah, I agree. “What then?” is indeed the question.

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    • @Michael Drew, yeah. As I said:

      I mostly just argue politics on the net and try to spread my memes around.

      Every now and again, they let me vote. I vote in the vector that I think is most helpful. I donate what I can to folks I can when I can and do what I can with the rest to take care of those nearest and dearest to me.

      Next time that something shows up about the war on drugs on your local ballot, please vote in the right direction. If you find yourself with donatable money, donate it to someone you think will be able to spread your memes around and do more good with it than you’d be likely to do. And take care of you and yours.

      If you figure something better out, let me know.

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      • @Jaybird, This isn’t a high-priority issue for me, Jay, but the point is that for anyone for whom it is, they’re free to take all kinds of actions to try to be the change they want to see in the world, etc.

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    • @Michael Drew, Responding to your last comment upthread here.

      “Mark, I guess the argument would be that if this isn’t an act that represents the government’s broad intention, but is rather a regrettable error of some kind, then it might not be unjustly harsh “government,” “government” there understood to be a fair cross-section of its actions rather than just picking out particular egregious examples.”

      I think my point here is that this wasn’t just a regrettable error, but rather is fairly representative of the 40,000 SWAT raids a year, most of which are to serve drug warrants. It is my contention here (and in the post upblog) that such disproportionate and arbitrary tactics are made inevitable not merely by criminalizing drug use, but by making drug crime prosecution a top law enforcement priority.

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      • @Mark Thompson, I agree that with as much as it happens, it can’t be seen as an exception, though surely pets aren’t killed in every one of those. And as I said, the definition as it reads (I looked at a Websers, and it is similar) is pretty clearly satisfied by these, at least in my opinion – I don’t see this as a due level of harshness – so that is what it is. In terms of political rhetoric in this country, I tend to think tyranny probably should have a more restrictive definition, but I don’t deny this meets the ones we’re looking at. On the other hand, they all employ terms requiring judgment of justification, so ultimately they’re not necessarily going to helpful where people disagree with us on the questions posed in these definitions. But I think you’d get even more disagreement if you just went around asking, “Do we live under tyranny?” or “Does undue harshness or severity by government constitute tyranny?”

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        • @Michael Drew, For the most part, I don’t say that we live under tyranny. But I do say that certain aspects of our government are truly tyrannical, the War on Drugs (to the extent it is prosecuted as a “War”) being the most obvious example.

          But beyond that, I think it’s important to point out, again and again, that there is such a thing as the tyranny of the majority and that, in fact, that is precisely the sort of tyranny that is most likely to exist in our society and this is how it is practiced.

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  17. Comments at LOG and elsewhere have often noted that police action that focuses on the folks in charge often gets fixed, whereas police action directed at the riff-raff goes unchecked. I think there’s a lot of truth to this. Maryland police made a mistake in 2008 when they did a drug bust at the home of Cheye Calvo, mayor of a Baltimore suburb. They killed the mayor’s two dogs and generally pissed him off. He’s still on their butts about it, speaking on radio shows and using his contacts to get things done (I hope he’s doing as much as he says).

    My understanding is that police always have the right to destroy any threatening animal, no matter the situation. The original reason was good: Dangerous dogs were being trained by drug dealers to attack uniformed people. The response in the arms race was to enable police to not have to think about defending themselves from animals. I don’t know whether the practice is still necessary: Whether it is or not, the result is that the beloved animals of drug users are in jeopardy. It’s a horrible outcome of what our country does really treat as a war. War has collateral damage. That a war has collateral damage is not an indictment of the war itself, only possibly of the tactic.

    Anyway, I guess my point is that, while this kind of horrible video gets our hackles up, our outrage is as nothing to the growing influence of the police forces of this country. They will always feel they know more, because they’ve seen friends and colleagues maimed or killed by drug dealers and their attack dogs. They want more armor to protect their own lives, while the druggies (which includes the legalization crowd, whether we use or not) want them to not get that protection. The police in this country are becoming more and more isolated from the people they serve, because they feel threatened by us.

    Any threatened animal is likely to lash out.

    I don’t know where to go from here, but it seems less and less helpful to stir up anger. A commenter at Radley Balko’s blog demonstrated how he had posted a respectful link, warning of the disturbing nature of the video, and had left it for readers to decide what to make of it. Just getting the message out, but not bothering to voice your own rage. What those of us who are Drug Peaceniks are opposing at this point is not people, but the institution of the drug enforcement structure, and how it traps our police force in a hopeless fight against a very few evil people mixed in amongst a helluva lot of “civilians,” guaranteeing collateral damage even by the best intentioned.

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