Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It's Called Collateral Damage

Here is the lonely libertarian's post on Radley Balco's "Overkill: The rise of paramilitary police raids in America." You can read the report or look at the map.

We know that surveillance is never perfect and mistakes can be made while undertaking military actions. As we know from Iraq and Afghanistan, storming a building must be done extremely carefully and is dangerous for even highly trained professionals. Our soldiers bravely accept these dangers and we recognize that, unfortunately, innocent lives are sometimes lost during wartime. The question is, do we think this unfortunate but unavoidable collateral damage is worth it in terms of fighting a war on drugs on our own soil.

Radley Balco's point (a point that I agree with) is not that SWAT tactics should never be used. His point is that because of the inherent danger of paramilitary tactics, we should limit their use to situations we have specifically identified as highly dangerous. Use of SWAT teams to execute warrants against non-violent drug offenders is not a good idea because it puts everyone involved in needless danger. I don't have them at my fingertips, but Balco has linked before to cases in which SWAT teams executed warrants for gambling offenses.

Personally, I've dealt with a case in court this semester where two women here in Connecticut were injured by a flash grenade when police accidentally raided the wrong apartment. Ask yourself, would you still agree with the use of these tactics in situations that have not been identified as dangerous if it was a family member of yours who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Blogger A Fan For All Seasons said...

"Ask yourself, would you still agree with the use of these tactics in situations that have not been identified as dangerous if it was a family member of yours who was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Would you still be for drug legalization if your brother was addicted to heroin? Maybe if you saw some of the first-hand affects of that crap you'd be singing a different tune too.

3:10 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

Plenty of us have had to deal with alcohol addiction and the multitude of problems alcohol can wreak on a family- yet most of us don't think alcohol shouldn't be illegal. Don't trot out the same old tired argument. The question you've yet to answer is, how much collateral damage is too much? How many innocent lives would it take before you say the war on drugs is too costly .. that's what I'd like to know.

Just to give you a sense on numbers- the report I linked too is by no means complete- its merely gathered from as many media sources as the author could find. It cites to 40 deaths of innocent people, 22 cases in which a police officer was injured or killed, 20 deaths of non-violent offenders, and 143 overall raids on innocent subjects.

Maybe not huge numbers, but combine this with the fact that there is not a shred of evidence to indicate that the war on drugs has led to decreased drug abuse, a decreased drug supply, or has even reduced access to illegal drugs. (And remember, I'm just talking about the militant war on drugs here, not about legalization.) If this use of militant force againast our own citizens has shown no real success, then why are any of these innocent deaths and botched raids acceptable?

Again, the argument I'm making here is not about legalization, just ending the militant aspect of the war on drugs.

9:49 PM  
Blogger A Fan For All Seasons said...

You didn't answer my question either. What I wanted to show you was anyone can be for something until it happens to someone close to you. What if YOUR own brother was shooting heroin everynight and it was ruining his life. Would you still feel the same way about drugs? I doubt it. Of course I would be upset if something bad happened to a member of my family, but that wouldn't change my opinion of drug use and it's dangers and it's place in society. As I've been saying, I blame the process, not the tactics. I completely understand the use of these raids, but if accidents are happening, it's because there have been rushed conclusions or poor evidence.

3:14 AM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

First, if my brother was shooting heroin, I'd feel no different about heroin than I would about alcohol if alcohol was ruining his life. If drugs are ruining your life, it's bad news regardless of their legal status.

The over use of SWAT teams also occurs outside the illegal drug context. There have been cases where SWAT teams have ben used to exercise warrants for gambling and warrants for physicians over prescribing pain medication. Forget about the question of legality for a second. This is a question of the tactics our police use againast offenders that have not been identified as violent. Once again, offenders who HAVE NOT BEEN IDENTIFIED AS VIOLENT.

In other words we're talking about the delibirate use of military style force against our own citizens- citizens who have not been identified as violent. These no knock warrants and use of SWAT teams creates dangerous and violent situations where they didn't previously exist.

The point of these posts is not to rehash the legalization debate, but to point out the tragic costs of these unncessary tactics. You miss the point that police work is never, and will never be perfect, and you're living in a fantasy world if you expect it to be. If there are no benifits to these sorts of tactics, why do we continue to use them?

8:55 AM  

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