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Drug War Chronicle, Issue #634 -(urls + editorial)- 5/28/10

Von: B Sellers (bliss@sfo.com) [Profil]
Datum: 28.05.2010 18:40
Message-ID: <htorlg$8ru$3@news.eternal-september.org>
Followup-to: talk.politics.drugs
Newsgroup: talk.politics.drugs rec.drugs.psychedelic rec.drugs.misc alt.hemp alt.drugs
Drug War Chronicle, Issue #634 -- 5/28/10
Phillip S. Smith, Editor, psmith@drcnet.org

A Publication of Stop the Drug War (DRCNet)
David Borden, Executive Director, borden@drcnet.org
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

Table of Contents:

Dead kids, dead dogs, broken doors, broken windows... what can we do to
rein in those SWAT teams? There are answers.

This week's outbreak of violence between supporters of a drug gang
leader and Jamaican police and soldiers in the Kingston slum
neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens reveals not only the weakness of the
Jamaican state, but also some usually obscure links between politicians
and the underworld.

Canadian marijuana activist and entrepreneur Marc Emery has now begun a
journey toward freedom that will most likely take him five years to
complete. He pleaded guilty in Seattle Monday.

In what is most likely a bid to blunt a campaign issue -- border
security -- for Republicans in this year's off-year elections, the Obama
administration is sending more than a thousand troops to the
Southwestern border.

Oh, lord, where to begin? The tweaker deputy sheriff stealing his supply
from the evidence room? The sticky-fingered narc who got stung? The cop
so cozy with his informant he was providing her with drugs he stole from
his own wife? There's all that and more, this week -- including, of
course, a crooked jail guard.

In Mexico, the killing continues with no end in sight. Here's the latest

In a bid to save money and be smarter on crime, Colorado has enacted a
package of bills that, among other things, will reduce some drug use and
possession sentences, allow greater judicial flexibility in sentencing,
and keep some technical parole violators from being sent back to prison.
But the package also increases some drug sales and manufacturing sentences.

It looks like marijuana legalization is about as popular in Colorado as
it is in California. A new Rasmussen poll has pot doing better than any
of the state's gubernatorial or US Senate candidates.

Products like Spice and K2 that contain a synthetic cannabinoid that
gets you kind of high have only appeared in the US in about the last
year, but a number of states have already acted to ban them. Georgia is
the latest.

Harm reductionists and drug reformers in Scotland have their work cut
out for them, according to an annual national survey released this week.
Support for marijuana legalization has declined dramatically, and
attitudes toward heroin users are harsh, leading to declining public
support for harm reduction.

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past.

2010 is a critical year in the effort to end prohibition and the war on
drugs. The StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) "Changing Minds, Changing Laws,
Changing Lives" campaign is asking for you to pitch in -- your support
is more important now than it has ever been before!

"Vote for Legalization on Republican Online Forum," "More Proof That
Marijuana Doesn't Make You Go Crazy," "Obama's Drug War Hypocrisy,"
"Cops Steal Money from 9-Year-Old Girl in Crazy Marijuana Raid," "Police
Cut Down 400 Pot Plants, Then Realize It's Not Marijuana."

Do you read Drug War Chronicle? If so, we need your feedback to evaluate
our work and make the case for Drug War Chronicle to funders. We need
donations too.

Apply for an internship at DRCNet and you could spend a semester
fighting the good fight!

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1. Feature: Reining in SWAT -- Towards Effective Oversight of
Paramilitary Police Units

As is periodically the case, law enforcement SWAT teams have once again
come under the harsh gaze of a public outraged and puzzled by their
excesses. First, it was the February SWAT raid on a Columbia, Missouri,
home where police shot two dogs, killing one, as the suspect, his wife,
and young son cowered. Police said they were looking for a dealer-sized
stash of marijuana, but found only a pipe with residues. When police
video of that raid hit the Internet and went viral this month, the
public anger was palpable, especially in Columbia.

Then came a botched SWAT raid in Georgia
(http://www.ajc.com/news/woman-suffers-heart-attack-526079.html) -- not
a forced entry, but otherwise highly aggressive, and directed at the
wrong building -- that left a 76-year-old woman hospitalized with a
heart attack.

And then came the tragedy in Detroit two weeks ago, where a member of a
Detroit Police SWAT team killed seven-year-old Aiyana Jones as she slept
on a living room couch. Allegedly, the officer had a tussle with the
girl's grandmother as he charged through the door after a flash-bang
grenade was thrown through the window, and the gun discharged
accidentally, though the account has been disputed by the family's
attorney. In this instance, police were not looking for drugs but for a
murder suspect. He was later found in another apartment in the same
house. Again, the public dismay and anger was palpable.

Botched (wrong address or wrong person) raids or raids where it appears
excessive force has been used are certainly not a new phenomenon, as
journalist Radley Balko documented in his 2006 study, "Overkill: The
Rise of Paramilitary Policing in America
(http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_idd76)." But most raids gone
bad do not get such wide public or media attention.

The victims often are poor, or non-white, or both. Or -- worse yet --
they are criminal suspects, who generally generate little sympathy, even
when they are abused.

And while they were originally created to handle very special problems
-- terrorist incidents, hostage situations, and the like -- there just
aren't that many of those. As a result the use of SWAT has seen "mission
creep," where SWAT teams are now routinely called out to serve search
warrants, particularly in drug cases. In 1980, 2,884 SWAT deployments
were recorded nationwide; the number today is estimated by experts at
50,000 annually or more.

The sheer normality of SWAT teams doing drug raids now, as well the
status of their victims, has resulted in effective immunity and impunity
for SWAT teams that commit errors or engage in unnecessary force. Most
of the time when a raid goes bad, nothing happens.

It seems to take an especially outrageous incident, like Columbia or
Detroit, to inspire public concern, and even then, it is the citizenry
and perhaps part of elected officialdom against the powerful law
enforcement establishment. Creating effective oversight over SWAT teams
and their paramilitary raids is not easy -- but it can be done, or at
least started.

The now infamous 2008 raid on the home of Berwyn Heights, Maryland,
Mayor Cheye Calvo by a Prince Georges County Police SWAT team is a case
in point. In that raid, police were tracking a package they knew
contained marijuana, and once it was delivered to Calvo's house and
taken inside, the SWAT team rushed in, manhandled Calvo and his
mother-in-law and shot and killed Calvo's two dogs.

But further investigation showed the Calvos were doubly victimized, not
criminals. They were victims of drug dealers who would send packages to
unknowing addresses, then pick them up after they were left by the
delivery man. And they were the victims of a SWAT team run amok.

But Prince Georges SWAT hit the wrong guy when it Calvo's house, and not
just because Calvo and his mother-in-law and his dogs were innocent
victims. Calvo was not just an upstanding member of the community -- he
was the mayor of his town. And beyond that, his former day job with the
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) gave him both personal
connections to legislators and the knowledge to work the system.

Prodded by Calvo and others, the Maryland legislature last year passed a
bill making it the first state to make any attempt to rein in SWAT. That
bill requires each agency with a SWAT team to file annual reports
detailing their activities and the results of their raids. The effort
was opposed by law enforcement, of course, but legislators were swayed
by hours of gut-wrenching testimony from raid victims.

"It was the telling of the stories of a number of people who had
suffered either botched or ill-advised raids," Calvo explained to Drug
War Chronicle. "It happens so often, and the stories don't get told in a
meaningful way, but my incident made such wide headlines that people
called me reaching out, and once those circles developed, we were able
to get some political momentum," he recalled.

"I happened to be in a unique position," he said. "Through my experience
at NCSL, I knew a lot of legislators and worked with the Judiciary
Committee in Maryland to get a bill drafted. When we had hearings, it
wasn't just one or two stories, probably more like a dozen, including
people we didn't know about, but who just showed up to tell their
stories. There was a wrong house raid with a dog killed, there was a
warrant served at a bad address, a mother whose house was raided after
her son was caught with a gram of marijuana, there was a triple no-knock
raid at three homes with the same name on all three, there was a former
member of the judiciary committee whose mother's home was raided because
police were looking for a relative. They kicked in her door and knocked
her to the ground," Calvo recalled.

"Each story helped connect the dots," he explained. "Those stories made
a powerful case. We were not saying the Assembly should micromanage the
police, but we wanted to shine a light on what was happening. The first
step was making people aware, and getting the SWAT data makes tangible
and comprehensive what is otherwise anecdotal."

Although the first formal report on Maryland SWAT raids is not due until
this fall, preliminary numbers from the first six months of reporting
have already generated more stories in the press and kept the issue
alive. And they provide grist for the reform mill.

"It's not just the number of raids, it's that 92% of them are for search
warrants, not hostage situations or bank robberies or the like," said
Calvo. "It's that two times out of three, they kick in the door. It's
that in some jurisdictions -- Prince Georges, Anne Arundel, Annapolis --
the majority of deployments are for misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies.
Prince Georges had 105 raids against nonviolent offenders in six months,
and that speaks to deeper policy problems. Baltimore County deployed
only once for a nonviolent offense. That's more a model of professionalism."

Calvo said he plans to use the full year's worth of SWAT raid reporting
due this fall to return to Annapolis to push for further reforms. "The
legislature could impose training standards or other statewide
protocols," he said. "It could impose more transparency. A full year of
data will be helpful with that. Hopefully, the reporting requirement
passed last year will end up being just the first step in a multi-step
process to insert some better judgment into the process for when these
paramilitary units are deployed."

The dog-killing SWAT raid in Columbia, Missouri, has also resulted in
activism aimed at reining in SWAT, and it has already had an impact.
Under withering public criticism, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton
quickly instituted changes in the SWAT team's command and control
and when and how it could be used. He also came out for marijuana
saying he believed many police would be happy to not have to enforce pot

The activism is continuing, however. "There is a lot going on in
response to that raid," said Columbia attorney Dan Viets, a member of
the board of national NORML (http://www.norml.org). "The ACLU and NORML
are involved, but so are groups of citizens who have not been activists
before. And our police chief has been pretty responsive -- he doesn't
have that bunker mentality that so many cops do," Viets said.

"For us, it's not so much SWAT as the use of search warrants for
nonviolent crimes. Whether they have SWAT on the back of their jackets
or not, they still do the same brutal stuff," the defense attorney
continued. "The execution of a search warrant is almost always a violent
act, it's a home invasion. It isn't that they're SWAT that matters, it's
the fact that they engage in violence in the execution of those search
warrants," he said.

"We are trying to suggest that police not use search warrants for
nonviolent crime," said Viets. "They can rely on the tried and true:
Send in an informer to do a controlled buy, then get an arrest warrant.
Even the chief has said that they would try to arrest people outside
their homes."

Similar outrage and activism is occurring in Detroit, where anti-police
sentiments were loudly voiced in the days after the killing of Aiyana
Jones. Police brutality activists usually isolated in their complaining
are being joined by everyday citizens. The Detroit City Council is
investigating. The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at Jones' funeral. But whether
the uproar results in a reformed SWAT policy remains to be seen.

"The death of that girl in Detroit was an inevitable result of the broad
use of these things," said Calvo. "When you're doing 50,000 or 75,000
SWAT raids a year, it will eventually happen."

"Whatever one thinks about using SWAT tactics when looking for a murder
suspect, the results in Detroit show how dangerously volatile these
tactics really are," said Dave Borden, executive director of
StoptheDrugWar.org (http://stopthedrugwar.org), who is also the moving
force behind the Americans for SWAT Reform (http://www.swatreform.org)
web site and campaign. "There is every reason to believe that conducting
a late night raid and detonating flash bang grenades led to the physical
contact between the woman and the officer in which the gun discharged,
killing the girl. That's all the more reason to avoid those tactics
wherever possible, certainly in routine drug search warrants."

"In Detroit, they were going after a murder suspect, but there are a
whole lot of questions about their tactical intelligence," said
criminologist David Klinger, a former LAPD and Redmond, Washington,
police officer and author of "Into the Kill Zone: a Cop's Eye View of
Deadly Force," who now works for the Police Executive Research Forum
(http://www.policeforum.org). "Did they know there were children
present? Why didn't they just do a contain and call?" where police
secure the perimeter and tell the suspect to come outside, he asked.

While sending in the SWAT team in Detroit may be justified, said
Klinger, the use of SWAT for small-time drug raids is not. "If you're
sending in a SWAT team for a small amount of marijuana, that doesn't
make sense," said Klinger. "There are some domestic agencies that don't
understand that they should be utilizing some sort of threat assessment.
That's one of the big issues regardless of who has oversight. A lot of
it is a training issue about when SWAT should be utilized."

There are different pressure points where reformers can attempt to get
some control over SWAT deployments. They range from the departmental
level, to city hall or the county government, to the state house, and to

"The first level of oversight should be within the agency, whether it's
the chief or some other officer with oversight over SWAT," said Klinger.
"You need to make sure they have appropriate command and control and
supervision, appropriate surveillance, tactical intelligence, and
evidence of something out of the usual as opposed to just 'there's drugs
there.' There needs to be a threat matrix done -- are there unusual
fortifications, is there a history of violence, are weapons present
other than for self protection?"

Neill Franklin is a former Maryland police officer with SWAT experience.
He is also the incoming head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
(http://www.leap.cc). For Franklin, SWAT has limited legitimate uses,
but aggressive, paramilitarized policing has gone too far. He blames the
war on drugs.

"Back in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn't use SWAT teams to conduct search
warrants unless it was a truly documented violent organization," he
said. "As the drug war escalated, we started using SWAT to execute
drug-related warrants. When I first started as an undercover officer,
the narcotics team executed the warrant, along with two or three
uniformed officers, but not with the high-powered weapons and force we
use today. The drug war is the reason for using these teams and the
driving force behind them," said the former narc.

"Because police have become accustomed to serving so many warrants,
they've also become accustomed to using SWAT for every warrant," said
Franklin. "In the past, they were more selective. You had to provide the
proper intel and articulate why a SWAT team was needed, what was the
history of violence, what was the prospect of violence. Some departments
now are very strict -- you have to ID the house and the people you're
after, you have to photograph the house and the door you're going to go
through, you have to know who should be in that house, what special
circumstances may be involved, and whether there are children or animals
in the house -- but now, I think a lot of departments aren't doing the
proper intel."

"You need a threat matrix that talks about unusual weapons," said
Klinger. "Does some guy have an automatic shotgun? Is he a major dealer?
That's when you might want to send in SWAT, but it's not a good idea to
routinely use SWAT."

In addition to doing surveillance and gathering intelligence, police
need to ensure they are using the right personnel for SWAT teams, said
Franklin, alluding to the fact that such teams are often accused of
having a "cowboy" mentality. "These guys are self-selected and
handpicked," he said. "You need people in good physical shape, but you
have to have a process for selecting the right people with the right

Franklin also pointed a finger at judges. "I think a lot of the time,
judges give warrants out too easily," he said. "A lot of them are just
boilerplate, already typed up; you just fill in the blanks and a little
detail. They are too easy to draft and get approved by a judge. The
judges need to be a bit more strict and ask some questions to ensure a
no-knock warrant is justified."

But departmental policies are where to begin, Franklin said. "Policy is
the critical point," said Franklin, "policy is the key. And maybe judges
need to be involved in asking those policy questions. Are there kids in
the home? Dogs? Special circumstances? Do you have photos? I don't think
judges are asking enough questions, and there is too much
rubber-stamping of warrants. The judges are too loose on this; they need
to tighten up."

The next levels of oversight -- and opportunities for intervention --
are the local and state governments, said Klinger. "It generally stops
with the mayor and city council, but now Maryland has a law where they
have to report, and I don't have a problem with that. We are a
representative republic, and the power of the police is very strong. The
government operates by the consent of the governed, and the governed
need to have information about what their police are doing. Why not?"

There is plenty of work that could be done at the state level, said Eric
Sterling, head of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation
(http://www.cjpf.org). "You could amend a state criminal procedure
statute to require that a specialized kind of warrant would be needed to
use a SWAT team. You could spell out particular things that had to be
established, you might require additional verification of informant
information beyond an ordinary search warrant, or specific evidence
about possession of weapons and evidence about their connection to
criminal activity, you could require higher degrees of confirmation
about the address, you could require specific findings regarding the
presence of children or the elderly, that a buy be done not by an
informant but by a member of the law enforcement agency, that there be
continuous surveillance of the property for some period before the raid
takes place to verify who is present," Sterling said, ticking off a list
of possibilities.

As Missouri attorney Viets noted above, it's not just SWAT, it is
aggressive tactics like dynamic entry and no-knock raids that are also
under scrutiny, whether done by SWAT or by other police units. It is
those situations that are most dangerous for police and citizens, with
the breaking down of doors, the yelling of commands, the flash-bangs,
the confusion. And even the cops are talking about it.

"There is a big debate going on in the SWAT community," said Klinger.
"Do you do a dynamic entry, or do you do something less? Some agencies
will do a breach and hold, where they get through the front door, but
stop there until they make contact with people inside. Another version
is the 'contain and call-out', where they announce their presence and
ask the people to come outside. Then, officers can carefully, slowly go
through the place, and you know that if someone has a gun, he's after
you. Sometimes we need to be aggressive, and there's nothing wrong with
a dynamic entry, but you want to make sure you're using SWAT in the
appropriate circumstances. We want to be minimally aggressive."

"It's those no-knock warrants, whether it's SWAT or not, where people
tend to get hurt, where their animals are slaughtered," said Franklin.
"That seems to be the norm now. You hear SWAT personnel joking about
this all the time. If you know there's an animal in the house, why don't
you just have Animal Control along? Unless that dog is so aggressive
he's actually ripping people apart, he could be secured. Mostly they are
just doing what they are supposed to do: barking and holding their ground."

[Ed: In many cases including the raid in Columbia, a warrant has
nominally been served as a knock-and-announce, but the waiting is so
short that it effectively equivalent to a no-knock. The term "dynamic
entry" roughly applies to both kinds of situations, and "no-knock" is
often used to refer to both kinds.]

"I don't know why they're shooting dogs," Klinger said with a hint of
exasperation. "Unless they were being aggressive and attacking, you need
to rethink what you're doing if you're shooting dogs. Just take a fire
extinguisher with you and zap the dog with it. Shooting dogs
unnecessarily suggests a lack of training about how to discern what is
and is not a threat."

As long as the war on drugs continues, so will the issues around SWAT,
no-knock raids, and search warrants. "The vast majority of these
warrants are drug related," said Franklin. "The ultimate solution is
ending prohibition. That would resolve so many issues."

Somewhat surprisingly, Klinger agreed. "We should just legalize drugs
and call off the hounds, but if we're going to have drug prohibition, we
have to be able to enforce it," he said. "If the rest of the polity says
no to legalization, we can't have a regime where dopers just sit in
their homes and do what they want. But if we are going to have the
prohibition model, we need appropriate oversight over policing it."

Sterling pointed out some other pressure points for SWAT reform until we
get to that day when drug prohibition is just a bad memory. "A private
way of thinking about this is to use the Commission on Accreditation for
Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. to include in accrediting criterion
better control or management of the way in which SWAT teams are used,"
said Sterling.

There are also reform possibilities at the federal level, Sterling said.
"If you want to set national standards, Congress arguably has the power
under the 14th Amendment in terms of equal protection to enforce the
Fourth Amendment," he said. "You could provide that SWAT activity
carried out outside the limits of such a special warrant could result in
civil liability, denial of federal funds to the agency, or potential
criminal penalties. There are examples of this in the wiretap law. It's
very, very strict in its requirements about what law enforcement
agencies have to do and it has very strict reporting requirements. There
is certainly precedent in national law for how we regulate highly
invasive, specialized law enforcement activities."

Sterling, a Maryland resident himself, said the Maryland SWAT reporting
law passed after the Calvo raid shows political space can be created to
support reform, but that it isn't easy. "It took raiding the mayor and
killing his dogs and their being completely innocent white people to get
relatively minor legislative action," he said. "The record keeping
requirement is clearly a baby step toward challenging SWAT, and there
was very decided knee-jerk law enforcement opposition to it."

It's going to take some organizing, he said. "You have to have a
collection of groups deciding to make this an issue the way they made
addressing the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity an issue. I'm
not aware that this has developed yet, and perhaps this is something the
drug reform community should be doing. We could take the lead in trying
to raise this with more powerful political actors."

================  ...


It's time to correct the mistake:
truth:the Anti-drugwar

Cops say legalize drugs--find out why:

Stoners are people too:

bliss -- Cacoa  Powered... (at sfo dot com)

bobbie sellers - a retired nurse in San Francisco

"It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.
It is by the beans of cacoa that the thoughts acquire speed,
the thighs acquire girth, the girth become a warning.
It is by theobromine alone I set my mind in motion."
--from Someone else's Dune spoof ripped to my taste.

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