Friday, April 27, 2007

More On Kathryn Johnston

Radley Balco has the latest on Kathryn Johnston, the 92 year-old woman who was shot to death by Atlanta police in a botched drug raid late last year. (More commentary from Balco here.)

Apparently an an investigation into a "culture of misconduct" is underway in the Atlanta PD. This is, as Balco points out, bad news for those of us who are concerned with overtly militaristic policing and an ineffective War on Drugs. When these tragedies are blamed on corruption and the misconduct of individuals we lose sight of the overarching problems within the system itself. The War on Drugs creates the negative incentives which allow corruption to fester in narcotics enforcement. And worse yet, militaristic raids on the homes of non-violent individuals drastically increase the possibilities of violence. SWAT-style raids are appropriate in known hostile and violent situations, but they are inappropriate as a means of executing warrants on non-violent offenders. Just think about what it means to have a SWAT-team knocking down your door on a no-knock raid. Even if they do knock, or announce themselves as police, there's no guarantee you'll here them. All you may be faced with is armed men storming into your house- given that situation, many of us might respond with deadly force if we had the option.

In the case of Mrs. Johnston, the officers involved in her death are guilty of some pretty heinous activities. But as Radley Balco points out, her death would still be a tragedy if this had been a properly executed, but factually incorrect warrant. And in reality, this would still have been a tragedy if she had been selling drugs. The question that I keep asking, and I'll repeat time and time again, is whether this is really the sort of world you want to live in.


Post a Comment

<< Home