The Drug War Has Incentivized Police To Treat Citizens Like Terrorists

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A video of a Florida Sheriff making a promo video to scare has been making the rounds recently.  Casey Research recently covered the affair, noting the following quote from Sheriff Grinnell:

“Enjoy looking over your shoulder, constantly wondering if today’s the day we come for you. Enjoy trying to sleep tonight, wondering if tonight’s the night our SWAT team blows your front door off the hinges. We are coming for you.”

The video (reproduced below, with commentary from Casey Research) is as surreal as the above picture implies…

Sheriff Grinnell delivered this message last month while flanked by four combat-ready officers wearing ski masks. It looks like someone from ISIS directed it.

Grinnell’s message was aimed at local drug dealers. You see, Lake County has a serious opioid problem. And like many other places in the US, it’s fighting its drug problem as if it were a war.

…but this is hardly the first time a video like this has been produced, and it likely won’t be the last.  Last year, former Sheriff Clay Higgins, known as the “Cajun John Wayne” in Louisiana, released the below video calling out the “Gremlins” gang, and before his resignation, was known for making many similar videos:

Some notable quotes from Sheriff Higgins:

  • You won’t walk away.  Look at you. Men like us, son, we do Dumbbell presses with weights bigger than you.
  • Young man, I’ll meet you on solid ground, anytime, anywhere. Light or heavy, it makes no difference to me.
  • You will be hunted, you will be tracked. And if you raise your weapon to a man like me, we’ll return fire with superior fire.
  • You don’t like the things I’ve told you tonight?  I’ve got one thing to say – I’m easy to find.

This guy certainly has enough one-liners to be worthy of the “Cajun John Wayne” moniker, but it seems none of the police or community leaders behind him bothered to ask why criminals engage in such violent behavior; they are trying to profit from the obscenely high price of illegal drugs.  And when it comes to profit, the criminals are hardly alone.

Free Market Shooter has covered the problems with Civil Asset Forfeiture in the past…

Martin Armstrong of Armstrong Economics explains how police have every reason to seize assets, largely because these civil asset forfeitures are literally funding police departments:

Between 1989 and 2010, U.S. attorneys seized an estimated $12.6 billion in asset forfeiture cases. The growth rate during that time averaged +19.4% annually. In 2010 alone, the value of assets seized grew by +52.8% from 2009 and was six times greater than the total for 1989. Then by 2014, that number had ballooned to roughly $4.5 billion for the year, making this 35% of the entire number of assets collected from 1989 to 2010 in a single year. According to the FBI, the total amount of goods stolen by criminals in 2014 burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.9 billion in property losses. This means that the police are now taking more assets than the criminals.

…but if you take a closer look at the forfeitures themselves, you’ll realize just how many of them are related to the war on drugs:

“Thirty-six percent of all local police departments received money, property, or goods from a drug asset forfeiture program during 2002 (table 32). These departments employed 78% of all local police officers. At least 80% of the departments in each population category of 25,000 or more had drug asset forfeiture receipts.”

“There can be few components of law enforcement programmes which actually cost nothing. The asset forfeiture provision of the federal law for crop suppression (relating mainly to cannabis in the State of Kentucky), proved to be such a case, costing the United States Government $13.7 million, but yielding a return of $53 million in 1991, or almost $4 in assets seized for every $1 invested by the Drug Enforcement Administration.”

“The advent of a now common police tactic, called the “reverse sting,” illustrates the shift in priorities from crime control to funding raids.107 In a reverse sting, an officer attempts to sell drugs to an unsuspecting buyer.108 The method permits the police to seize the buyer’s cash rather than a seller’s drugs, which have no value to the agency.

“During the past decade, law enforcement agencies increasingly have turned to asset seizures and drug enforcement grants to compensate for budgetary shortfalls, at the expense of other criminal justice goals. We believe the strange shape of the criminal justice system today—the law enforcement agenda that targets assets rather than crime,20 the 80 percent of seizures that are unaccompanied by any criminal prosecution,21the plea bargains that favor drug kingpins and penalize the “mules” without assets to trade,22 the reverse stings that target drug buyers rather than drug sellers,23 the overkill in agencies involved even in minor arrests,24 the massive shift towards federal jurisdiction over local law enforcement25—is largely the unplanned by-product of this economic incentive structure.”

So the drug war has created a massive financial incentive for police to seize property from individuals, one that many departments could require to stay afloat.  What do you think happens next?

As Free Market Shooter has covered previously for Single Dude Travel, raids from SWAT teams have become commonplace, with police becoming better armed by the day:

Our nation’s policing system has become profit-driven instead of crime-driven, largely due to the failure of the war on drugs, and the fact that cops have been given surplus military hardware from the armed forces at bargain basement prices. SWAT team raids have gone from a few hundred per year in the 1970s to 50,000 annually, largely because they call SWAT in when “Special Weapons And Tactics” aren’t really needed, such as when apprehending a credit card scammer or raiding an organic farm for the filmiest of reasons. When a SWAT team nearly kills a 19-month old baby with a flashbang grenade, in a raid without the suspect present, how are there no charges filed?

And now that police are all armed to the teeth looking for property to seize, what happens next?  The practice is applied everywhere.  If you look at a report on the “most outlandish SWAT team raids” across the country, you’ll see just how common it is to have a SWAT team called in:

  • Armed agents raid animal shelter in search of baby deer—and kill it.
  • Girl’s home wrongfully raided with flashbangs despite door being open.
  • SWAT team raids DJ’s studio to enforce copyright law.
  • SWAT squad invades private poker game.
  • SWAT team raids man’s home in search of stolen koi fish.
  • Sex toys, condoms and pajamas seized in drug/prostitution SWAT team raid.
  • Peaceful monks arrested in SWAT team action.
  • Feds raid Amish dairy farm—twice—for selling unpasteurized milk.
  • Police unlawfully invade a series of barbershops without warrants.
  • Police forcibly search and detain 19 patrons in gay bar.
  • SWAT team confiscates wood used to make instruments during illegal raid.

So, how do you stop police from treating civilians like they would treat terrorists?  The best place to start is removing the incentive structure that has been created by the war on drugs, which brings us back to Casey Research’s commentary:

Illegalizing something does nothing but create a black market and give people a reason to induce other people to get high. I mean, people have been drinking alcohol for about the last 10,000 years. But it didn’t become a real problem until the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act passed in 1920. At that point, it financed the mafia. Laws turn simple bad habits into massive and profitable criminal enterprises.

The government learned absolutely nothing from the failure of alcohol prohibition. What they’re doing with drugs makes an occasional, trivial problem into a national catastrophe…

However, do not expect that to happen anytime soon; again, as Free Market Shooter has covered in the past, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions is adamant about expanding the war on drugs:

And, in case you weren’t aware, this is the same Jeff Sessions who is on the record as being not only against medicinal marijuana, it is the same Jeff Sessions that has stated that marijuana is only slightly less awful than heroin:

     And I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana – so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful.

Then again… it’s not like the prior ten attorney generals did anything but continue the war on drugs.  Remember what Casey said about “massive profitable criminal enterprises”?