Skirmishes in the War on Drugs

This is True’s 4 September 2005 issue had a line-up of several stories about druggies doing incredibly stupid things. It’s a fairly common theme in True, in fact: drug and alcohol abuse very often makes people do stupid things.

In this case, though, it was a bit of a setup: the final story in the group had quite a twist:

Final Skirmish

Anthony A. Diotaiuto, 23, was sitting in his Sunrise, Fla., home when suddenly someone broke down the door without any warning and rushed in. Diotaiuto, who has a gun permit, grabbed his gun to defend himself — and was shot about 10 times by police doing a drug raid. He was killed. Friends say Diotaiuto was a “casual” pot smoker who did not sell drugs. A search of the home found just two ounces of marijuana. Officers identified themselves as police when they “walked” into the home and ordered him to “freeze,” said police spokesman Lt. Robert Voss. “It was his choice not to follow orders.” (Miami Herald) …When the “war on drugs” means the government vs. its own people, it’s not surprising to learn that simple possession can become a death penalty offense.

I of course expected that this story would raise some eyebrows. That was its intent. And indeed I got some interesting feedback.

Dave in Ontario, Canada, was one of the “pros”:

Right on. Although I don’t know the statistics, I feel certain that ‘The War on Drugs’ has caused more misery, suffering, and deaths than the drugs themselves ever have. We need more people like you who have the courage to speak up.”

But the “cons” are quite a bit more interesting, so I’ll concentrate on those. David in Pennsylvania wondered:

How does the source claim to know the victim’s side of the story? If he was killed, he’s certainly not telling stories. It just seems a little bizarre. With the lack of any witnesses I’d be more inclined to believe the police. I always tend to err on the side of law enforcement.”

It took a bit of back and forth for me to fully understand David’s question. Who was the source of the “victim’s side of the story”? The police!

The simple facts are, the police had a warrant and broke in without notice, the startled homeowner grabbed his licensed gun, and in response he was shot to death. End of story from their point of view.

“The victim’s side” essentially is not reported. Being dead, he wasn’t really able to tell “his side.” That it’s this bad when it’s the police telling the story is fairly telling, isn’t it?

No-Knock

Greg, a long-time reader and a police officer in Tennessee:

I know you have some law enforcement experience so I was surprised to read what I interpreted as some anti-police bias in your wording of the story and the tagline as well. I am not familiar with Florida criminal law, but here in Tennessee, ‘just two ounces of marijuana’ is four times the amount considered felony possession (read: not simple) of marijuana. I would expect the [law] to be similar in FL as well. There also seems to be an assumption that police burst in without warning, leaving Diotaiuto to believe he may be under attack from violent criminals. Who are the witnesses claiming police did not properly knock and identify themselves? How would you expect a reasonable officer to respond to an armed individual upon executing a search warrant? Of course Diotaiuto was shot! He presented an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officers when he armed himself! I expect this kind of anti-police slant from the mainstream media, but not from you.

Greg remembers correctly: I was a sheriff’s deputy in northern California (and I do volunteer work now for the local sheriff and EMS agency). So how likely is it that I have an “anti-police bias”? Not very.

Some back and forth with Greg revealed something interesting to me: Greg, presumably a long-time cop, has never heard of a no-knock warrant; they don’t have them in Tennessee.

Since I was assigned to search and rescue, I never served a warrant when I was a deputy, but I was certainly aware of no-knock warrants in California, and from the wording of the story it’s fairly apparent to me that they have them in Florida. (A “no-knock” warrant allows them to do just that: break in without knocking — without announcing who they are — in order to take the house by surprise. Greg replied, “A no-knock warrant? Must be something they use in FL, but not here. I don’t know that the benefits of an unannounced entry outweigh the potential costs involved (i.e. encountering an armed individual who thinks he is being robbed). Probably not the best method to use.”)

Well yeah: that’s part of the point; that’s clearly what happened here! But now I understand why he was confused, since there’s no such concept where he works. I had wrongly assumed they had such an option in every state.

A Subtle Difference

I’ve never used drugs. Ever. Not one toke of pot, not one sniff of coke, not one hit of any illegal drug. Why not? They’re stupid. I value my common sense, my ability to think, my self control (or simply “my brain”) way to much to risk screwing it up. As a medic especially, I saw drugs ruin many, many lives. Anyone who has read True for awhile has gotten a pretty good idea of what I think of drug and alcohol abuse.

So if I’m not “anti-police” and I am indeed truly “anti-drug,” what’s the story really about? It’s an example of the failure of prohibition, and a telling one at that.

Alcohol prohibition not only didn’t work in the U.S., it facilitated an immense organized crime structure. Drug prohibition, despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent and countless lives ruined, isn’t working either, and is helping to perpetuate the organized crime infrastructure.

And, as Canadian reader Dave points out, our “war” on drugs may have “caused more misery, suffering, and deaths than the drugs themselves ever have.”

Yet despite that obvious failure, the “War on Drugs” is escalating, and simple users, not just dealers, are being shot down in their own homes in that escalation. And this says nothing of completely innocent civilians who are the victims of mistaken identity, address errors, or wanton misinformation supplied by informants, many of whom are drug dealers themselves.

Prohibition Just Does Not Work

Now that you understand what I think about drugs, you should know I’m not about to tell you what to do with your life. You want to waste it away on drugs? I think you should be able to, just like you’re allowed to waste it away on booze.

That is, as long as you don’t infringe on my rights. That means using them in private or at home, the same place Mr. Diotaiuto was when he was shot to death by the police. But if people go out and drive impaired, or get violent and assault someone, or commit any other crime due to drugs’ influence, then indeed they should be dealt with harshly — just like we’re doing with people who commit crimes while impaired by alcohol.

One important thing to remember in the Diotaiuto case: the police didn’t do anything “wrong” — I doubt very much that there will be any criminal charges against the officers involved. Indeed, as Greg pointed out, once they were confronted by a man with a gun, they pretty much had no choice; they “had” to shoot. Remember that in their justified-by-the-law arrogance, they blamed the victim (“It was his choice not to follow orders.”)

But Ask the Right Questions

Greg asked what I think should have happened once they were confronted by a man with a gun while in a residence with a legal search warrant? But that’s the wrong question! The question society needs to ask is, Should they have been there in the first place?

Or, more widely, should society continue down this “War on Drugs” path, which pits the Government Of The People against …its own people? Or even more widely, should the government really be trying to force moral issues into the legal arena?

I definitely think it’s part of True‘s function to raise such questions to prompt public dialogue on important issues. They’re questions we need to raise among ourselves and, of course, our legislators. If you agree (or if you don’t), don’t write me; write them — they’re the ones who can do something about it.

Still, I’ll be interested in your Comments: they’re open below.

Related: The War on Drugs.


2013 Update

I found a writeup on the case dated 2013 that noted police kept changing their story. They said Diotaiuto pointed his gun at officers, then backed off, saying it was found next to his body. Then they went back to the pointing story. The 2 oz of pot got dropped to 1 oz, then later to 16 g.

Diotaiuto didn’t need a concealed carry permit to have the gun in his house, but he had one — which means he went through, and passed, a background check. Police used this fact — that he went through the legal process and took a safety class — as an indication Diotaiuto was “potentially dangerous.”(!)

Bull. Criminals don’t go through all that and buy their guns legally, only law-abiding folks do that.

“What Did They Expect to Happen?”

Neighbors who were awake during the raid say they didn’t hear any “Police! Open up!” type of announcement — just quiet, and then shooting.

“What in the hell were they doing with a SWAT team?” asks Eleanor Shockett. “To break into someone’s home at six in the morning, possibly awaken someone from a deep sleep, someone who has a concealed weapons permit? What did they expect to happen?”

Who is Eleanor Shockett? A retired Miami-Dade circuit judge. But she was apparently the only reasonable judge in the area. As expected, Diotaiuto’s family filed a federal lawsuit over the raid. It was dismissed in federal circuit court via summary judgment, and that decision was unanimously upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in September 2010.

The clear message: it’s just fine for a SWAT team to raid a man’s house in the early morning, and shoot him to death if he resists, if the police think he just might have a tiny amount of marijuana.

And that’s exactly what you can expect from a “war” on drugs, fought by a militarized police force against the citizens they’re paid to protect.

(Update source: Huffington Post)

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25 thoughts on “Skirmishes in the War on Drugs

  1. The result of government determining morals is probably one of the major causes of the moral decline in this country. So long as we can point to Uncle Sam and say that it’s ok by his rules we will never learn to take responsibility for our own actions. I believe that is why the courts are so full of absurd legal cases as well. We are no longer held responsible for our own actions when the government makes all the rules and decisions for us in what they decide are our best interest.

  2. I was astonished at the similarity of the case you describe, in which police burst into a home with a “no knock warrant” and shot the owner, to a case in Texas involving author Barbara Davis’s son, Troy.

    In this case, police were given a “tip” (which proved to be false) that there were drugs on the premises and the police were so confident that they were going to take down some high-profile felon that they invited a local TV station along to film the raid. As per the tape that was shot, 1.8 seconds elapsed between the moment police broke the door down and the moment they started shooting.

    Police claimed that he had threatened them with a gun, and a gun was indeed found near his body. However, it didn’t belong to him. Obviously I have no idea of the details of the Florida case, but would like to point out that anyone could have two ounces of marijuana in their house after they’d been shot by people with plenty of access to same. And we’ll never know. And that’s America today, where the criminals walk free and law-abiding citizens had better add a few more bolts to their doors.

    Until I read this, it didn’t even occur to me that the police in Florida could have planted the drugs they say they found. But other readers suggested that possibility too. -rc

  3. It seems that the circumstance has produced a way to make the question about the war on drugs. But I think that the real issue is the “No-knock warrant”.

    Of course it is a technique that is supposed to keep anyone from hiding the stash before the police enter. Now, on the theory that this could apply to almost anything they are searching for, stopping the war on drugs isn’t going to prevent this situation from happening. It may reduce the exposure because of fewer warrants, but that is not the real problem.

    A citizen should have the right to defend himself, and if police act like criminals entering one’s house, then you have to expect that this kind of thing is going to continue. Or another option is for criminals to act like the police entering the house. Who gets shot then?

    The police are not supposed to rob a person of due process and execute someone on the spot. When you set up the circumstances so that “police self defense” becomes the only option for the police, then what is wrong is the setup, not the reaction to the citizen.

    The priority is to protect the citizens, not catch someone red handed before they can hide the evidence. So in my opinion, the question is one of police procedure, not the War on Drugs. Making it anything else is confusing the issue at the least, and twisting it to justify and agenda at the most. From our exchanges in the past, I don’t think it is the latter.

  4. We agree that (some) drugs are bad to take, etc. You might be interested in some statistics stated by a U.S. District Court Judge in a speech to the Western Governors’ Association back in 2000:

    “Drug prohibition doesn’t work. In 1914 when drugs like cocaine were available on grocery shelves, 1.3% of the population was addicted. In 1979, before the so-called “War on Drugs” crackdown, the addiction rate was still 1.3%. Today, while billions of dollars are being spent to reduce drug use, the addiction rate is still 1.3%.” (Source)

    When cocaine was freely available, people didn’t rush to use it. Only those with a particular weakness for it abused it. The same would be true today. Most people who don’t abuse narcotics would continue to not abuse narcotics. Neither you, nor I, nor most would abuse cocaine.

    That quote, by Senior Judge John L. Kane of the U.S. District Court of Denver, Colorado, from that same source, continues: “Yet America imprisons 100,000 more persons for drug offenses than the entire European Union imprisons for all offenses. The European Union has 100 million more citizens than the U.S.” What’s the cost of that?! And for what? To keep us at the natural (if you will) level of drug addiction? What a waste — of money, of resources, of lives. “The land of the free” can do better than that. -rc

  5. You are usually careful to report the facts clearly and evenhandedly, but you have apparently lost sight of this requirement in your zeal to make a point. You first say the victim in this case “was sitting in his … home when suddenly someone broke down the door without any warning and rushed in. Diotaiuto, who has a gun permit, grabbed his gun to defend himself — and was shot about 10 times by police doing a drug raid.”

    You then say “officers identified themselves as police when they ‘walked’ into the home and ordered him to ‘freeze,’ said police spokesman Lt. Robert Voss. ‘It was his choice not to follow orders.’” Which version is true? If they walked in, identified themselves, and ordered him to freeze, they did not also break down the door without warning, rush in, and shoot him down when he grabbed his gun. Did they identify themselves and warn him to freeze or rush in without any warning? If so, did he freeze or not follow orders? Don’t you think it makes a difference?

    And why do you say not one word about whether they had probable cause for an offense sufficient to justify a no-knock raid, and yet rant about war on citizens? This is very irresponsible reporting and a bad way to present an issue for debate. I won’t even get into the merits of your arguments about the war on drugs, which make no sense as presented either. You need to get your fervor back under control and play fair with your readers.

    There are three main points raised here, so I’ll address them individually.

    First, there is no contradiction in the story. Of course the two scenarios you raise are both true! Here’s how: They smash in the door, which would certainly surprise anyone anywhere in the house that is within hearing distance. Anyone’s immediate thought would be “intruders” — and coming in like that you can bet he thought “violent intruders”! Anyone with a gun would start thinking about retrieving it. Even with a no-knock warrant, police would start yelling things like “POLICE!” and “FREEZE!” as soon as — but not before — they are in the door. Good front doors don’t drop with the first smash; it might take several hits with a battering ram to get in. One can easily be reaching for a gun in that time. I quoted the police on the “walked” bit for its hilarity value. Walked?! They walked in? No way: they rushed in. Seconds, at most, have passed. The homeowner is quite surprised, but he’s reaching for a gun; the cops are not dumb, they’re prepared: the second they see a gun the tension factor, already very high, escalates to extreme. They already have their guns in their hands; the result of several trained gunfighters at the ready against a surprised civilian is fairly easy to predict. The guy is dead long before he understands the intruders are police officers. The concept of “they’re here legally, I must submit to them” is a long, long way away.

    Second, I indeed did not report on the “probable cause” which allowed the police to get the warrant in the first place: the newspaper did a damn poor job on covering that angle. Without quoting him directly, they said the same police spokesman (and I’ll quote the newspaper here — the quotation marks are not in the source) told them “detectives had been observing people visiting his home” (my, isn’t that suspicious! Warning: if you have a friend over for dinner, police might get a warrant to search your house!) and “an undercover investigator or informant had bought drugs from him.” That, in my professional opinion, means the police spokesman has no idea what the PC was. “An undercover investigator or informant”?! You mean, he has no idea whether the PC was established by a professional police officer or a paid informant, who may well be a drug dealer himself?! Pathetic!

    Third, you say my arguments “make no sense.” Yet pretty much everyone else who wrote not only understood them just fine, they agree with them. I thus pretty much have to believe the problem in understanding them is yours. -rc

  6. I agree totally with your position on the failed war on drugs. If our resources were redirected away from enforcement, adjudication, and incarceration toward education and treatment, the public and the drug users would be much better served.

    It is extremely unlikely that we will ever see such a shift because Americans are disturbingly susceptible to propaganda, becoming fearful of many mostly imagined evils. Example: we still get shivers when we hear the word “communist,” and our media never misses a chance to use the word in reference to North Korea or Cuba. How we can be afraid of these two countries is beyond me, but it surely serves our government that we are.

    The propagandizers in the war on drugs are the people who most benefit from it: the police, the courts, the jailers, and the politicians. Basically, they need crime in order to survive. The result is that they’ve criminalized a whole class of activities and naturally occurring substances (which must be part of God’s design) with the general support of the public facilitated by the fear instilled by their propaganda. It’s really discouraging.

  7. The so-called “war on drugs” often focuses too much on petty users like this and too little on those who are making a fortune selling drugs to kids. If the cops in this story had busted a meth lab, nobody would have thought a second thing about it. [Including me. -rc] Like you, I’ve never used drugs and I think people who do are just plain stupid. But I think all the hullabaloo over marijuana is a bunch of crap. There are plenty of other drug problems that are far more important and need the full attention of law enforcement.

  8. I didn’t even realize that there was such a thing as “No-knock” warrant. I wondered if the State of Michigan had this so to Google I went. I found an interesting site with an court decision from 1994. I did not read it all, but one passage did stand out:

    This Court in Benefield explained the basis for the knock-and-announce requirement that has governed residential searches in our state: Entering one’s home without legal authority and neglect to give the occupants notice have been condemned by the law and the common custom of this country and England from time immemorial. It was condemned by the yearbooks of Edward IV, before the discovery of this country by Columbus. Judge Prettyman for the Court of Appeals in Accarino v. United States, discussed the history and reasons for it. William Pitt categorized a man’s home as his castle. Paraphrasing one of his speeches in which he apostrophized the home, it was said in about this fashion: The poorest pioneer in his log cabin may bid defiance to the forces of the crown. It may be located so far in the backwoods that the sun rises this side of it; it may be unsteady; the roof may leak; the wind may blow through it; the cold may penetrate it and his dog may sleep beneath the front steps, but it is his castle that the king may not enter and his men dare not cross the threshold without his permission. This sentiment has moulded our concept of the home as one’s castle as well as the law to protect it. The law forbids the law enforcement officers of the state or the United States to enter before knocking at the door, giving his name and the purpose of his call. There is nothing more terrifying to the occupants than to be suddenly confronted in the privacy of their home by a police officer decorated with guns and the insignia of his office. This is why the law protects its entrance so rigidly. The law so interpreted is nothing more than another expression of the moral emphasis placed on liberty and the sanctity of the home in a free country. Liberty without virtue is much like a spirited horse, apt to go berserk on slight provocation if not restrained by a severe bit. Benefield v. State, 160 So.2d 706, 709 (Fla.1964) (citations omitted, emphasis added by the reader)

  9. I had to write about the comments you received from Greg. No-knock warrants were upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Banks and therefore apply to police in all 50 states. Also, there are definitely no-knock warrants in Tennessee as evidenced in the case STATE OF TENNESSEE v. FRAZIER FASHUN PERRY. I am skeptical of Greg’s police status, and if he is a police officer — Yikes! I am a 2nd year law student with one class in criminal procedure knew about no-knock warrants.

    Just because every state is eligible to perform them doesn’t mean every state — nor every jurisdiction in every state — does use them. Indeed, many have likely decided not to because they’re simply too dangerous, as case after case has proven. -rc

  10. While I am decidedly pro-police, the “War on Drugs” leaves me terrified sometimes. As you pointed out, this “war” harks back to the days of prohibition and all its failures and terrors.

    Like tobacco and alcohol, recreational drugs should be legalized, controlled, and taxed. Not only will this remove the obscene and illegal profits, the crime associated with those activities will largely disappear.

    Several years back (I don’t remember where), some poor individual had his house invaded by the police doing a no-knock warrant. His house was thrashed, and he was arrested and booked before the cops realized they were at the wrong address. Nothing illegal was found.

    The talk show host G. Gordon Liddy was asked live on-the-air how someone who is innocent should respond to an unannounced barging in of the police; Liddy gave a curt response: “I recommend head shots.”

    Of course Mr. Liddy was vilified by law enforcement for several weeks for his statements. He continues to stand by them. His opinion — and mine — is that unless there is grave and immediate danger to someone, the police have no special immunity when crashing in unannounced on anyone, and that they had better be on their toes when doing so.

    It’s tragically sad that a law-abiding, “pro-police” citizen is terrified that he could become the victim of misinformed, over-zealous police officers. But that’s a rational reaction to a “war” being fought by our own government against its own citizens. -rc

  11. I’ve long been fascinated by the war on drugs. I’m Dutch by birth, but lived in the U.S. from ages 6 to 19, and have now been living in the Netherlands for about 12 years again. I agree completely with your point on making drug (ab)use a legal problem.

    The Netherlands has long had a policy of tolerating drug use (while technically illegal) and a few years ago, ‘soft’ drugs like marijuana and hashish were legalised completely. Like prostitution, drugs should be viewed as a social or medical ‘problem’. Once you make this step, you can manage drug use much better because you’re no longer forcing it underground. Dutch drug addicts can get free needles, methadone, counselling and the like without trouble.

    Legalising (or tolerating) the drug trade has also meant that the quality is better (e.g. rarely are there dangerous ‘additives’ in the drugs). And, of course, our drug-related crime is very low.

  12. I’ve moved more toward a position of legalizing drugs, despite my strong Christian convictions. However, your question, “should the government really be trying to force moral issues into the legal arena?” is not as simple as it sounds. First, how would you define “moral”? Most people would consider murder a “moral” issue. Respectfully, I’d suggest “moral” might not be the right word.

    Interestingly, several readers have brought this up, while others grasp it immediately. Virtually all who have a problem with it identify themselves as Christians. When I was a speaker at a conference put on by the Skeptics Society, one of the panelists was a minister who talked about the morality of atheism, and he talked about how one had to believe in God to be moral. That raised the hackles of quite a few people: several got up to indignantly refute that concept: they were extremely moral people even though they were atheists. More moral than many Christians, I’d dare say, when you consider the types I’ve dubbed the American Taliban (and see the follow-up).

    I’m not an expert in the philosophical discussion of morality, but here is how I see it: Murder is not a moral issue, it’s a rights issue. If you murder me, then you’ve infringed on my rights, as well as my family’s. If you smoke pot in your home (and don’t drive, etc.), then you have not infringed on my rights. Yet people say you “shouldn’t” do it anyway because it’s “wrong” — a moral issue. I hope you can see that’s a big, big difference. -rc

  13. Two comments: First, one of the more insidious aspects of the “war on drugs” is that it has often been used as a war on minorities. Historical information about this can be found at druglibrary.org. I’ve seen various forms of evidence that Nixon especially used the war on drugs as a politically acceptable replacement for more overt racial discrimination against blacks. The book Smoke and Mirrors explores this issue in depth.

    The second thing I find funny is that you felt the need to explain that you have never taken any illegal drugs. Not that there is anything wrong with that — I too have never taken any illegal drugs (even when I was in countries where they were legal!). The funny part is that not ever having taken any drugs is so uncommon as to have become remarkable! What does this alone say about the failure of the war on drugs? What does that say about our country when we have laws that consider the vast majority of our citizens to be dangerous lawbreakers, who can have our front doors broken down without warning by the police? Not to mention our government itself, as the CIA has been known to sell illegal drugs to finance its operations.

  14. One example of this is the case of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo:

    After coming home and retrieving a package that had been delivered to his house, he was startled by a special weapons team and county narcotics officers who burst in and immediately killed both his dogs, one of whom was running away at the time. He was tied up and questioned for 90 minutes in his underwear, along with his mother in law. The box contained 30 pounds of marijuana. No connection has been found between the delivery and the Mayor, and police say that it is common for people to move drugs by delivering them via courier, then having the real recipient come to the house to claim the ‘misdelivered’ box.

    ‘Berwyn Heights Police Chief Patrick Murphy said county police and the Sheriff’s Office had not notified his department of the raid. He said town police could have conducted the search without a SWAT team.

    “You can’t tell me the chief of police of a municipality wouldn’t have been able to knock on the door of the mayor of that municipality, gain his confidence and enter the residence,” Murphy said. “It would not have been a necessity to shoot and kill this man’s dogs.” ‘
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/30/AR2008073003299.html
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-mayoremail0808,0,4607054.story

  15. The Florida man who was killed in a police raid was not the last to die the very same way. It has been a few years since this happened in Pembroke Pines, Fl. Almost all things mentioned happened again.

    Neighbors told the police that there had been quite a few people seen coming and going to the house. The police thought there was enough reason to get a warrant, which they executed, in a similar manner. The police said they did it that way because they knew the man had a concealed weapons permit. So, they executed him.

    Police later found drugs. There had been a young lady sleeping over, and she had about half an ounce (misdemeanor amount) in her purse. I think, later on, that charges against her were dropped.

    People wrote in and demanded a good reason for this happening. It was felt that the police could have stopped the man as he left his home, and nobody would die.

    After a few days, the story dropped from the news. I tried to contact the newspaper reporter, by phone and email, to find out what the outcome of this story was, but there was no reply. I have heard nothing since.

    In my opinion, like other posters here, is that the police keep this up because if they do not, they will lose funding. So, those billions of dollars keep coming. Jails and prison space are overcrowded, therefore, many more billions of dollars are spent. The third way we lose additional billions, is that those dollars go out of the country.

    I for one, do not think this is worthwhile. You can’t legislate morals. It is estimated that 3/4 of adults, people like Schwarzenegger, Clinton, and Obama as well, have at least tried marijuana. No, I do not want any impaired drivers out there on the road with me.

  16. Tennessee officer is correct. The War on Drugs is a big deal here in Tennessee. This isn’t an isolated indecent, it is just a rare occasion when there is proof. I don’t do drugs, and hope that my kids never do drugs, but I hate to think that my personal choices are causing some handicapped man to be tortured because he wasn’t a good forced informant. It reminds me of the inquisition.

  17. It has become profitable for private companies to erect prisons and receive funding from government on a per-prisoner basis. These prisoners are then used as forced labour for other corporations to manufacture good cheaply. If you want a nice, docile (for the most part) work force, what better than people who are arrested for non-violent crimes such as simple drug possession. Corporations get rich by building prisons, then get richer selling forced labour. Other corporations get richer using these state-sponsored sweatshops. And the politicians get their kickbacks via massive campaign contributions from the same corporations. It’s a very nice closed-loop system and we are funding it with tax dollars and providing the labour.

  18. Just note: Diotaiuto is Italian for May God help you (Dio=God; t-contraction of te=you; aiuto=help.). His name made me laugh (and then feel guilty, of course) at the tragedy. The War on Drugs being waged against the American people by its own government has THE main earmark of evil: It is ridiculous!

    Evil is composed of just two things: Lies & Murder. There are many combinations, as in “lies to justify murder” or “murder to cover up lies” or… You get it. But the objective of Evil is to empower somebody above the Law. Excuse after excuse is used to control the uncontrollable just so that a group of people pick & choose which laws to enforce against which people. We have Rights in these United States. But that means we have a duty to fight for them against those who would use force to subjugate us.

    Well, down from my soapbox.

  19. Two questions:

    1. Please prove the “war on (some) drugs can be won”? (Note equating drug use to a “war on murder” is false. Murder has been against the law all the way back to Moses and Hammurabi. All drugs have been legal and illegal over time.)

    2. Please show a common citizen has an effective defense to a corrupt cop. (Yes, *some* corrupt cops are eventually found and charged, but still fairly rare.)

    I’m waiting.

    I hope you’re very, very, patient. -rc

  20. So what was the final result (in the Anthony A. Diotaiuto case in Sunrise, FL)? Was there a wrongful death civil action brought, and if so, how did it turn out?

    An excellent question, so I researched it, and added an update above. Make sure you’re sitting down when you read it. -rc

  21. You’re right on target, Randy. And I’d comment that the aspect of the War on Drugs which makes it even more pernicious is the mandate that the police can confiscate property (including boats, cars, etc.) without due process, sell it, and keep the money! This is a recipe for compounding inequity, and encouraging venality. There are many examples of abuse, and of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of getting improperly confiscated property returned, or even reimbursement for it.

    But this story brought another story to mind. In Seattle, they were trying to teach police restraint and mediation skills to change behavior and foster better relations with the public. Many police resisted; one commented, “Our job is to get the bad guys.” Sounds more like war than policing, and is consistent with the militarization of police forces (they are being issued the same weapons and hardware used in the Iraq war), and the use of SWAT teams for no good reason (in Sweden, one even showed up for a case of an illegally downloaded album by a 9-year-old girl). Even television shows it — police routinely approaching a witness’s house in force with drawn guns, for instance, when there’s no reason to expect armed resistance.

    But my reaction was, “No, your job is not to ‘get the bad guys’; your job is to protect the public, who incidentally are the people who pay your salary. Shooting them out of hand (look at chronicles of recent killings by police), or creating situations in which an armed response is required, does not meet this definition.” I wonder how that got lost in the evolution of modern “law enforcement” (in quotes, because you’re screwed whether or not the police are behaving lawfully — “failure to follow orders” being potentially a capital crime).

  22. To Don in N. New York, I don’t remember where this decision was handed down — it might have been right here in our fair state — but a court decided that (summarized in my own words) it is *not* the job of the police to protect the general public; it is their job to enforce laws and catch lawbreakers. I was under the impression law enforcement’s job was to protect as well as enforce, but clearly I’ve been expecting too much of them. Time to hire a bodyguard with a concealed carry permit? ;p

    I think it’s high time pot was made legal nationwide to smoke in your residence/on your property/in approved medical facilities, and the laws regarding drug possession and jail time are LONG overdue for being rewritten. Rapists, molesters, abusers, and people who commit truly heinous crimes get out of prison years before people who were put away for possessing small amounts of weed in some states, and in others rape and possessing a few ounces of weed have the same sentence. That is totally out of whack. If you have a room full of brick of cocaine, I can see being put away for decades, but a few grams or ounces? Give me a break! Being locked away for decades because you had a little weed on you is even more ridiculous. I’ve never smoked weed and, because of medication I’m on, I doubt I ever will, but I know people who do and they are incredibly laid back and mellow when high. They never drive and never would. If anyone under the influence of weed caused an accident because weed impaired their abilities, then, by all means, they should be hit with a DUI. Anyone caught driving under the influence of any other substance should be hit with a DUI as well.

    If you’re caught in possession of a controlled/illegal substance, that should earn you a trip to rehab, not a trip to prison. If you’re not arrested, that means you don’t need to worry about a felony ending up on your record. No felony = much easier time getting a job, passing background checks, and getting things done in life, period. If you go to rehab instead of prison, that means your addiction, the reason you had the drugs, the crux of the issue, is dealt with head-on, beaten, and you’re given the tools to stay in control and stay sober. Rehab > prison.

    America’s problem with illegal drugs continues to grow worse and worse, rather than improve. The War on Drugs has been a failure. Period. If Illegal Drugs was a flesh-and-blood enemy, the American public would’ve called for an end to the War years ago because of how obvious it was we were losing and how slim our chances of winning were. It’s time to fall back, regroup, and try different tactics to gain control over “recreational pharmaceuticals”. Legalizing them and adding them to the roster of Controlled Substances as Schedule I, making them the tightest regulated and hardest to get, is one option. Another is to tightly regulate them and make them available to the public as “under the counter” drugs, like Sudafed is now (read: ask the pharmacist, you show ID and sign on the line, the pharmacist sells you a box of Sudafed).

  23. Sadly the war on drugs has moved to sick old people in pain. There have been a few times where an elderly couple were taken off from the pain drugs that gave them a life and let them “appear” normal. They could not handle the thought of there grandkids seeing them crippled and unable to play with them. I know of 2 that took there lives. There are many more story’s just like this but they are invisible people so no one talks about it.

  24. A few years ago a no knock warrant was served on the wrong house in Indiana. An elderly man thought his house was being broken into and pulled his gun and was shot to death. Cops said “Oops!”

    What is wrong with the cops simply waiting until the suspect leaves his house to arrest him and then serve the warrant? Unless you have a hostage situation where someones life is in danger I fail to see the need for a no knock warrant.

    They should indeed be reserved for extreme circumstances, not everyday use. -rc

  25. It’s stories like this that make it really easy to believe that in most of the recent, highly publicized cases of cops shooting black men to death, that it was the boys in blue who were the real murderers. See, the problem with cases like the one in this article is that every time something like this goes down, it makes it harder for the real police to do their jobs.

    Some 45 years ago a friend an I were driving home from college when some clown pulls alongside us, and matches our speed. After a few irritating seconds of this fool, my buddy sped up to get away from him. Fool sped up until he was pacing us and matched our speed again. We sped up. Fool sped up. This happened several times. We finally got to a stop sign. We stop. Fool stops. Buddy punches out and off we roared down the road. Finally out distanced the dimwad.

    A few miles down the road, he caught up to us. He pulled alongside us on my side of the car. And as he angrily rolled his window down, I turned to my buddy and said laughingly, “Our friend is back.” When i looked back at him, the sonofa***** was holding a pistol. I yelled “Rick! He’s got a gun!” Rick didn’t wait. He just whipped the car around, then high-tailed it back in the other direction. A short distance down the road we saw a Dunkin’ Donuts store that was still open, so we turned into the parking lot. I jumped out and ran inside yelling for the clerk to “Call the cops! There’s someone chasing us with a gun!” I finally calmed down enough to realize I had to help my friend so I headed back outside. Only to discover that the fool chasing us WAS a cop. Several cars showed up at which time the police proceeded to arrest my friend. I pointed at the guy who had been chasing us and said, this guy pulled a gun on us.” “No I didn’t,” he replied. “I was showing you my badge.”

    In forty-five years, I’ve had dealings on numerous occasions with the police. Sometimes I’ve even been able to talk my way out of the speeding tickets. In that time, they have never been rude, or unprofessional. But I’ll always remember O’Neill. And I’ll always have my doubts about whether cops in these violent confrontations really felt their lives were in danger, or simply spooked someone to get the necessary reaction that allowed them to pull heat. Or even lied about the entire situation.

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