January 27th, 2006


Good Cops, Bad Cops

A few years ago, a guy in Mississippi was sleeping in his bed when a stranger smashed down the door and burst into the house with no warning. Afraid for himself and his baby daughter, he shoots the intruder. Turns out the guy was a cop executing a "no knock" warrant on the other side of the duplex. The police chief's son, as it happened. The sleeping father was black. So now Cory Maye is on death row for defending himself against a home invasion.

Now this week in my quiet town of Saginaw the cops had a problem. Some repo men had been chased off by the owner firing over a dozen bullets at them. (BTW, don't any of these guys understand that "Blanks get the job done."?) So the cops cordoned off the area, waited for him to wake up, then politely invited him to step outside. Bad (or more likely stupid) guy under arrest, no further damage, no officers exposed to gunfire.

So is it just that cops are smart in Texas and dumb in Mississippi? No. It's that the Prentiss, MS cops were working by "Drug War" rules while the Saginaw ones were using "crime" ones. The anti-drug tactics are driven by the problem that there's no victim to complain about the crime, so they have to find the actual drugs to press charges. Given the ease of flushing them down the toilet, cops prefer "no knock" warrants, not announcing themselves as police until they're already in the house. (The macho factor of wearing black and smashing doors is probably also part of the decision process) But these make for hazardous operations--friendly fire deaths between cops, deaths of innocents in the cross-fire, and worst of all law-abiding householders attacked by mistake. It's a hell of a thing to look at a cop's death and say "That's justifiable self-defense."

The sooner we stop outlawing victimless crimes the more lives we'll save. Including cops' lives.
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