John Oliver On Drug Raids: Why Are We Raiding Houses For Drug Quantities That Could Be Easily Flushed Down A Toilet?
from the law-enforcement-vastly-overestimating-toilet-capacity dept
John Oliver has demolished many institutions in his time (not literally, unfortunately, in most cases) as the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight. It’s rare when a mainstream program chooses to address more esoteric matters often discussed at this website. But Oliver does it more than most and, for that, we truly appreciate him.
His episode from last week dealt with drug raids. Our nation’s drug warriors have decided any suspicion of non-violent crime should be met with an uber-violent response, possibly because they’ve watched just as many Hollywood movies as we have.
When it comes to drugs and drug warrants, it’s all hands on deck. Sometimes, law enforcement agencies are able to obtain no-knock warrants, which allow them to enter a residence without announcing their presence in order to “preserve evidence” and limit the possibility of a violent response.
Let’s handle the second thing first. There’s a lot of evidence that suggests no-knock raids increase the possibility of a violent response because the first assumption a drug dealer might make is that a rival drug dealer/gang is raiding their house to end their lives, take their drugs, and grab a bit more profitable turf. Cops get killed. People get killed.
Now, let’s talk about the possibility of evidence being destroyed. We’re talking about large amounts of drugs, paraphernalia, and weapons. As John Oliver points out, this is bullshit. Cops are raiding homes without announcing themselves to secure extremely minute amounts of evidence. And that’s according to their own justifications:
Yeah, the ruling there was giving you 20 seconds to answer your door is reasonable because you might flush evidence down the toilet, which raises the obvious question here: why the f*ck are we raiding people’s homes for an amount of evidence that can be flushed down a toilet?
As someone who has had to unclog toilets multiple times over my 46 years of living (
but mostly over my 30 years of being a parent) (I had my first child at 30), the amount of anything it takes to clog a toilet is far less than any amount of anything that would seem to justify a guns-out raid of a premises. And considering the catch-all charge for most raids — especially when no one can find the drugs officers thought they’d find — is illegal possession of a weapon by a felon, there’s absolutely zero chance anyone’s going to be able to flush a gun down a toilet. That’s just impossible.
Surrounding a house and providing residents a chance to answer — rather than destroying doors, windows, nearby toddlers… — is going to keep most evidence intact. A toilet can only do so much. A surrounded residence will prevent suspects and evidence from being ejected into neighboring yards. Everything else will still remain in place, especially when suspects realize Hollywood has been lying to them about the flushability of large quantities of drugs.
In any event, treating every standard drug warrant service as paramilitary assault on a violent enemy results in — you guessed it — violence. People are killed and wounded. Officers are killed and wounded. And this happens whether or not cops hit the right address. In far too many cases, they don’t. That’s something we won’t put up with from the USPS, Amazon, or anyone else we entrust to get our address correct. When cops don’t, officials just respond with ¯_(?)_/¯. This should be a tragedy and result in a few firings. Instead, it’s just the cost of the Drug War — paid by people who weren’t even combatants.
The police hitting the wrong address is completely unacceptable when the stakes are so high. Even Edible Arrangements manages to deliver to the correct address!
When the stakes are life and death, mere competence shouldn’t be considered an unreasonable bar for officers to reach. It should be the minimum we expect of them. But it isn’t. And cops continue to get more violent despite the Drug War being a multi-decade failure and their escalating efforts having resulted in little more than a long, uninterrupted string of rights violations and deaths. This is unacceptable. And yet, it is not only considered acceptable, but valorous. Hopefully, John Oliver’s reach will make more people aware of the injustices carried out with their implicit blessing and prompt further meaningful change in drug policies and law enforcement agencies.