Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Latest Drug War Tragedy - Virginia Officer Shot and Killed, Drug War Victim in Jail

Radley Balco has been throughly covering the latest Drug War raid gone wrong. I've included the relevant links below, after my own brief summary.

On Friday January 18th, the Chesapeake Virginia SWAT team executed a raid on the home of 28-year-old Ryan David Frederick based on the word of an informant who claimed Frederick was conducting a marijuana growing operation. During the course of the raid, Officer Jarrod Shivers was shot and killed by Frederick, who claims he never heard the police announce themselves and wasn't aware that it was police who were invading his home. According to Frederick, he feared the intruders were burglars, as his home had been mysteriously broken into several days earlier.

Frederick has now been charged with first degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and misdemeanor marijuana possession. The growing operation was actually a collection of Japanese maple trees and the gardening tools and equipment Frederick used for his gardening hobby. Here are the links to Balco's superb coverage:

Virginia Cop Killed In Drug Raid, Suspect Claims He Was Defending His Home
Update on Chesapeake Drug Raid
Update in Chesapeake
Back to Chesapeake
More From Chesapeake
News From Chesapeake
Back to Chesapeake

And just a few comments of my own- I know I've argued drug policy before on this blog, but these stories on drug raids are not as much about drugs as they are about police procedures. Once again, we have the tragedy of a cop losing his life and an innocent life ruined. If you support drug prohibition, then fine. But at least take the time to think about the tactics that are used in drug policing.

This tragedy yet again highlights some of the problems:

# The use of questionable informants and the planning of para-military type raids based solely on the word of informants. In this case, it's possible that the informant was Mr. Frederick's mysterious burglar and that he had mistaken the Japanese maple's for marijuana plants.

# The use of paramilitary force in no-knock or knock and announce raids. These raids tend to create chaos rather then diffuse it. Sure, there are circumstances when these types of raids are needed, but those circumstances should be limited solely to situations where police are likely to encounter violent resistance.

# The lack of real reconnaissance work prior to a military-style raid being conducted. Could you imagine the military conducting a planned raid, with no timing concerns, without at least attempting to ascertain who and what was in the building they planned on raiding?

It's been pointed out that maybe Frederick really was growing marijuana even if he wasn't caught with it- it certainly is possible, but even if he had a marijuana growing operation, that wouldn't make this any less of a tragedy. Maybe there'd be less sympathy for Frederick, but that wouldn't change the fact that these terrible tactics got Officer Shiver killed.

Others have made the argument in the past that no-knock armed raids are needed to catch drug criminals, because otherwise, they would have the opportunity to dispose of their drugs before the police could confiscate them. But this argument fails on it's face, at least as far as big time drug dealers go. In this case, if someone's conducting a marijuana growing operation, there's no way they could get rid of all the evidence if the cops knocked on the door with a warrant. The only ones who'd be able to get rid of their drugs would be the very small-time dealers and the casual drug users- hardly the types that require an armed SWAT team.

Here's the big thing- Why would Ryan Frederick fire at the cops and then surrender to them. If he really knew there were cops in his house and he knew he was firing at a police officer, surrendering moments later just doesn't make any sense. And given that all the police found was a personal amount of marijuana, why fire on the police in the first place. The whole thing just wreaks of tragedy- overzealous policing, lousy tactics, the inevitable dead officer and the innocent man in jail.


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