Is the War on Drugs Worth This

Many people, especially neoconservatives, believe that it’s the state’s duty to wage a holy crusade against drugs not produced by major pharmaceutical companies. In this holy crusade anything goes including theft and breaking and entering. As you would expect when the police decide to break into a home the consequences are often dire:

Brenda Van Zweitan, 51, was shot and killed during a 2010 drug raid on her home by the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Department. According to police, Van Zweitan was holding a handgun when they approached her in the home, and then refused to drop it when ordered to do so. Van Zweitan’s boyfriend was arrested without resistance.

In the weeks before the raid, however, Van Zweitan had been robbed, and the man she believed committed the robbery had threatened her on the Internet. Her friends and family also pointed to the fact that she had no prior criminal record, and that the police entered the home in a particularly aggressive and terrifying manor — by smashing through a sliding glass door — to suggest that she likely wasn’t aware that the armed intruders in her home were police. Van Zweitan was also a PTA member, a grandmother, and a local political and environmental activist.

There is no reason Mrs. Zweitan had to die. The police could have knocked on her door, presented a warrant, and went from there. Instead they dressed up in their tactical high speed, low drag mall ninja gear, busted through a sliding glass door, and waived their guns around like gangsters. Anybody inside the house would have been justified in assuming the people breaking into their home were generic street thugs and the need for self-defense was immediate. The police, of course, saw the homeowner holding a gun, a result that should have been expected when kicking in a sliding glass door, and opened fire.

In situations like this people often point out that police officers have to deal with violent thugs every day and therefore are apt to shoot when they see somebody present a weapon. That excuse may be acceptable if the police are acting like something other than common thugs but when they’re breaking into somebody’s home they should expect to see a firearm presented, realize that the firearm is being presented because the person believes non-state thugs are breaking in, and hold their fire until being fire upon. If they don’t want to get shot at they can knock on the door and present a warrant instead of going from zero to commando in .05 seconds.