Misguided cops turn the war on weed into a war on growing things, they continue cracking down on marijuana grow operations, especially in heavily armed, unannounced raids, maybe they should consider hiring a botanist or two. Earlier this month, Dwayne Perry of Cartersville, Georgia, was startled out of his bed by a low-flying helicopter.
Moments later, WSB-TV reports, heavily armed officers and K-9 units with the Governor’s Task Force for drug suppression showed up, apparently believing they were about to make a weed bust. What they found instead: okra. The vegetable. Perry was confused and frightened by the incident. The officers were “strapped to the gills,” he told the station. While Perry claimed his reputation may have been damaged by the mistake, he said he also realized that his life was put in danger because of it.
While law enforcement often trumpets successful anti-drug operations, agencies are less eager to admit when drug raids are marred by tragic miscalculations. Law enforcement’s heavy-handed tactics have led to the death or injury of a number of innocent victims. Earlier this year, deputies threw a stun grenade in the crib of a 19-month-old, resulting in severe burns to the child. The sought-after suspect wasn’t home at the time, and the officers ultimately avoided charges, with the sheriff suggesting the accident was unavoidable.
In another recent incident, a 59-year-old was gunned down by a SWAT team in a no-knock raid, as he believed his home was being burglarized for the second time in as many days. Officers were operating on a tip given to them by a meth addict. Getting it right isn’t always easy, but when the consequences of getting it wrong can be so dire, errors understandably attract criticism. Many of the stories below are the result of a combination of poor plant identification skills, questionable tips from the public and rushed or unprofessional conduct by law enforcement.
These mistakes, even when made with the best intentions, show the risks associated with a war on drugs that often prioritizes harsh prohibition of both marijuana and other drugs over concerns for public safety, civil liberties and due caution. Weed, But Not That Kind The war on drugs has long been a cash cow for local law enforcement agencies that receive funding based on the number of arrests and the value of assets forfeited during drug busts.
Critics claim this system of incentivization can make officers see what they want to see — perhaps a grove of marijuana plants — rather than what is actually there — say, a field of giant ragweed. In 2001, members of the Texas Capital Area Drug Task Force — a controversial federally funded anti-narcotics unit that gained notoriety when it botched a number of high-profile raids in the early 2000s — forced its way into a residence, after a circling helicopter said it had spotted a large marijuana grow operation on the property.
Entering with guns drawn and without a warrant, the officers aggressively confronted the house’s occupants, including a Vietnam veteran and a widow. Behind the house, the offending plant they found was ragweed. The mistake led to a lawsuit, which was eventually settled for $40,000. It would be one of three botched raids by the task force in under a year. Two of the raids led to innocent fatalities, and eventually resulted in the task force being taken over by the governor’s office. Know your rights.