Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I hate when that happens: the Drug War gone awry

The last in a series of four recent posts on the practical (and thus, ethical) problems of the War on Drugs....

From Rodney Balko in Reason
, the story of another innocent person dying-- as we try to protect people from themselves...

In January 2007, a SWAT team in Lima, Ohio, shot and killed Tarika Wilson, a 26-year-old mother, during a drug raid at the home of her boyfriend, Anthony Terry. When the unarmed Wilson was shot, she was kneeling on the ground, complying with police orders. She was holding her 1-year-old son, Sincere, who was also shot, losing his left hand. A subsequent investigation revealed that Officer Joseph Chavalia heard another officer shooting Terry’s two dogs, mistook the noise for hostile gunfire, panicked, and fired blindly into the room where Wilson was kneeling. Chavalia was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but acquitted.

As reckless and violent as the raid was, the police did at least find a substantial supply of illegal drugs inside the house, and Anthony Terry later pleaded guilty to felony drug distribution. A subsequent investigation by the Lima News showed that despite the inherent danger and small margin for error, SWAT raids conducted by the Lima Police Department frequently turned up no drugs or weapons at all [1/3 of the 198 raids from 2001 to 2008].

Balko cites similar results in other cities before going to his punchline on Lima's effort:

When told of the Lima News investigation, police spokesman Kevin Martin said, “That means 68 percent of the time, we’re getting guns or drugs off the street. We’re not looking at it as a win-loss record like a football team does.”


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