When President Richard Nixon unleashed the dogs of the weed wars back in 1970s, plagues of generic, anti-drug thugs made it their mission to track down the average marijuana user and inflict a violent wrath against their well-being. Forty years later, the federal practice that stimulates this supposed drug war has reached a despicable new low, as it has now become common practice for Uncle Sam to feed blood-stained incentives to local law enforcement agencies to reward them for busting petty pot offenders.
The system, of course, is damned to hell, with its metamorphosis of the decades causing a militant ransacking of civil rights that has only served to incarcerate hundreds of thousands of potheads while putting the heads of others on the proverbial stick. These soldiers against stoners, also know as SWAT teams, have become a stinking new legion of domestic terrorists.
Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report indicating that 62 percent of all SWAT team deployments were for the sole purpose of kicking down the doors of suspected drug offenders. This means that local police departments are opening a can of whip ass in small communities, with dangerous military-grade weapons in tow, just to bring down the heat on the average citizen because an anonymous snitch may have seen them at one time or another in possession of the flower of feel-good – marijuana.
Indeed, the days of the friendly officer are long gone. They have since been swallowed up by the paramiliterization of the American police force, compliments of the kings of Congress, who not so long ago approved the Pentagon’s 1033 program. It has continued to supply local police squads with the kind of high-powered weaponry that, until 20 years ago, had previously only been used by the United States military. One of the most frightening aspects of this program is it was actually developed as a resource to help state and local police agencies combat the War on Drugs, which has essentially transformed into a wild-eyed, lynch mob armed and ready to kill over a joint.
Over the summer, Florida drug enforcement agents received word that 29-year-old Jason Westcott was selling marijuana out of his Tampa home. That was all it took for police to obtain a no-knock search warrant and soon they were kicking down his front door, firing arsenal of semi-automatic assault weapons with their itchy trigger fingers.
Several months prior to the raid, Westcott contacted the Tampa Police Department to report a person who had been making death threats against him. According to reports, the lead investigator in the case told Westcott, “If anyone breaks into this house, grab your gun and shoot to kill.”
On that evening in late May when a Florida SWAT team came crashing into Westcott’s home in hopes of arresting him for dealing marijuana, agents found a frightened man who thought he was about to be killed by the same ornery bastard who had threatened him earlier in the year. Armed with a pistol from the nightstand, Westcott made a run from the bedroom towards the bathroom where he kept surveillance monitors in hopes of determining who was terrorizing his home. Yet, he never made it – two SWAT members shot him several times before he ever had a chance to make into the hallway. Westcott died in a nearby hospital a short time later. A search of the residence only uncovered 0.2 grams of marijuana – not even enough for a decent sized joint.
To make the situation worse, Tampa Police chief Jane Castor said her department was justified in the killing of Westcott because they felt threatened and acted in accordance with their training.
“You can take the entire marijuana issue out of the picture,” said Castor. “If there’s an indication that there is armed trafficking going on – someone selling narcotics while they are armed or have the ability to use a firearm – then the tactical response team will do the initial entry.”
SWAT team bungles were the focus of a recent congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., where bi-partisan lawmakers announced the filing of a bill aimed at putting an end to the use of SWAT teams against citizens suspected of drug-related offenses. The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014 would no longer allow the Department of Defense to issue military-grade vehicles and weapons to local and state police departments.
“Militarizing America’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent,” said Democratic Congressman Hank Johnson, who introduced the bill along with Republican Raul Labrador. “Before another small town’s police force gets a $750,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can’t maintain or manage, it behooves us to press pause on Pentagon’s 1033 program and revisit the merits of a militarized America.”
Under the proposal, local and state police agencies would no longer be allowed the use of weapons .50 caliber and over, armored and mine-resistant tactical vehicles, armed drones, combat aircraft, explosives, silencers, and long range acoustic devices in an effort to take down non-violent marijuana users or any other potential low-level drug offender.
Weeks prior to the hearing, the National Tactical Officers Association, a lobby group serving on behalf of militarized police forces all across the country, got wind of the anti-SWAT bill and emailed members of the legislature pleading that they not to use the recent onslaught of bad press as a reason to strip them of their firepower.
“The police have to be one step ahead of the criminal element, have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario,” NTOA Executive Director Mark Lomax told The Daily Beast. “You don’t want a community to be taken over by one or many criminals. We’re definitely for equipping our law enforcement officials out there properly, with proper training and proper policies.”
More sensible law enforcement officials believe the time has come to castrate the Pentagon’s 1033 program before more citizens are injured or killed in the name of the war against marijuana.
“Very occasionally and with proper oversight and training, the use of some military equipment is appropriate – school shootings, terrorist situations and the like,” said Major Neill Franklin with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “But when it’s routinely used against nonviolent drug offenders, it only serves to further strain police-community relations so vital to preventing and solving violent crime. This bill will correct some of the worst excesses of a potentially useful program hijacked by the war on drugs.”
Have you or anyone you know ever been raided by the police? Tell us about your experience in the comments.