SWAT Raids, Stun Guns, And Pepper Spray: Why The Government Is Ramping Up The Use Of Force
In February of last year, video surfaced of a marijuana raid in Columbia, Mo. During the raid on Jonathan Whitworth and his family, police took down the door with a battering ram, then shot and killed one of Whitworth’s dogs within seconds of entering the home and they wounded the other. They didn’t find enough pot in the home to charge Whitworth with even a misdemeanor. (He was, however, charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia when police found a pipe.) The disturbing video went viral in May 2010, triggering outrage around the world. On Fox News, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly cautioned not to judge the entire drug war by the video, which they characterized as an isolated incident.
In fact, very little about the raid that was unusual. For the most part, it was carried out the same way drug warrants are served some 150 times per day in the United States. The battering ram, the execution of Whitworth’s dog, the fact that police weren’t aware Whitworth’s 7-year-old child was in the home before they riddled the place with bullets, the fact that they found only a small amount of pot, likely for personal use — all are common in drug raids. The only thing unusual was that the raid was recorded by police, then released to the public after an open records request by the Columbia Daily Tribune. It was as if much of the country was seeing for the first time the violence with which the drug war is actually fought. And they didn’t like what they saw.