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A Quarterly Message on Liberty Fall 2013 Volume 11 Number 4 n 2006, right around Thanksgiving, a nar- cotics task force with the Atlanta Police De- partment was out on patrol when they saw a man walking that they had previously ar- rested for various drug offenses. They jumped out, threw him to the ground, pulled a gun, and we would later find out, planted a bag of marijua- na on him. The man had a long rap sheet, but the police said they’d let him go if he would tell them where they could find a supply of drugs. So he made up an address basically on the spot. The address hap- pened to be that of Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year- old woman who lived in a rough part of Atlanta. RADLEY BALKO I Radley Balko is a senior writer and in- vestigative reporter for the Huffing- ton Post, as well as a media fellow at the Cato Institute. He spoke about his new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, at a Capitol Hill Briefing in July. The Militarization of America’s Police Forces The Militarization of America’s Police Forces
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The Militarization of America’s Police Forces I · The Militarization of America’s Police Forces The Militarization of. 2•Cato’s Letter FALL 2013 W hen the police get a tip

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Page 1: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces I · The Militarization of America’s Police Forces The Militarization of. 2•Cato’s Letter FALL 2013 W hen the police get a tip

A Quarterly Message on Liberty

Fall 2013Volume 11Number 4

n 2006, right around Thanksgiving, a nar-cotics task force with the Atlanta Police De-partment was out on patrol when they sawa man walking that they had previously ar-

rested for various drug offenses. They jumpedout, threw him to the ground, pulled a gun, andwe would later find out, planted a bag of marijua-na on him.

The man had a long rap sheet, but the policesaid they’d let him go if he would tell them wherethey could find a supply of drugs. So he made upan address basically on the spot. The address hap-pened to be that of Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman who lived in a rough part of Atlanta.

RADLEY BALKO

IRadley Balko is a senior writer and in-vestigative reporter for the Huffing-ton Post, as well as a media fellow atthe Cato Institute. He spoke about hisnew book, Rise of the Warrior Cop,at a Capitol Hill Briefing in July.

The Militarization of America’s Police ForcesThe Militarization ofAmerica’s Police Forces

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2 • Cato’s Letter FALL 2013

When the police get a tiplike this, they’re sup-posed to get a confiden-

tial informant to perform a con-trolled buy from the address given.But that process can easily take twoor three days. Instead, these officersfabricated an informant, lied on theaffidavit, and started breaking downKathryn Johnston’s door thatevening.

Johnston, fearing that she wasabout to be robbed, met the policewith a rusty, nonfunctional revolverthat she used to ward off threats. Thepolice opened fire. Once they realizedtheir mistake, the officers hand-cuffed Johnston, leaving her to bleedto death on the floor while theyplanted marijuana in her basement.

Shortly after the shooting, thepolice alleged that they had paid aninformant to buy drugs from John-ston’s home. They said she firedfirst, wounding two officers. Andthey alleged they found marijuanain her home. We now know thesewere all lies.

In the federal investigation thatensued, we found out that police cor-ruption—from lying on search war-

rants to raiding wrong houses—wasrampant in Atlanta. It also becameclear that the city’s narcotics officershad quotas. They were expected, forexample, to arrest so many people orseize a minimum quantity of drugseach month. These numbers, in turn,were used to help evaluate perform-ances, calculate raises, and determinepromotions.

What the federal investigationdidn’t capture, however, was the rea-son for these quotas. It turns out thatthere are federal grants earmarkedspecifically for drug policing, mean-ing that police departments acrossthe country are competing for limit-ed funds. The pressure to producethese statistics is then passed on tothe individual officers.

In the United States,we’ve always drawn a firmline between the militaryand the police. There’s goodreason for that. These aretwo very different jobs. Therole of police officers is toprotect our rights and keepthe peace, while the mili-tary’s job is to annihilateforeign enemies.

For the most part, we’vedone a good job of keeping

the military and the police separate.Nevertheless, as I argue in my book,we’ve violated the spirit of the PosseComitatus Act, a Civil War–era lawprohibiting police from enlisting ac-tive-duty soldiers for civilian law en-forcement. Instead of bringing sol-diers in, we’ve encouraged policeofficers to use the tactics and adoptthe mindset of soldiers. The out-come has been just as troubling.

In the United States,we’ve always drawn afirm line between themilitary and the police.There’s good reason forthat. These are two verydifferent jobs.

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FALL 2013 Cato’s Letter • 3

There are two trendswhich began in the late 1960sand early 1970s that help ex-plain how we got here: therise of the SWAT team andthe escalation of the war ondrugs. Longtime Los Angelespolice chief Daryl F. Gates iswidely credited with invent-ing the SWAT team in early1966. During that time,Gates was in charge of find-ing new ways to counter the guerrillatactics used against LA police duringthe Watts riots. He soon embracedthe idea of assembling an elite unit ofofficers—trained by the military ineverything from crowd control tosniping—who could react quicklyand forcefully to emergencies.

The original name Gates gave tothis unit was “Special Weapons At-tack Team,” or SWAT. But city offi-cials objected to the word “attack”and persuaded him to change it to“Special Weapons and Tactics.” Thenew name stuck; however, thechange was purely cosmetic.

The concept of having a special-ized force to handle dangerous situa-tions quickly gained favor among of-ficials, politicians, and the public. Intheir very first raid, the LA SWATteam engaged in a high-profileshootout with the city’s Black Pan-ther militia. Publicity from the stand-off won the unit widespread publicacclaim. Gates’s team would again befeatured in a celebrated standoff inMay 1974, when SWAT officers trad-ed gunfire with the Symbionese Lib-eration Army on live national televi-sion. This helped thrust the idea intopopular culture, with TV shows,

board games, lunch boxes, and thelike soon to follow.

Around the same time, PresidentRichard Nixon declared a war ondrugs. Among the new law-enforce-ment policies included in this cam-paign was the no-knock raid, whichallowed drug cops to break intohomes without the traditional knockand announcement. The Nixon ad-ministration adopted the idea on theadvice of a 29-year-old Senate aide.After fierce debate, Congress passed abill authorizing no-knock raids forfederal narcotics agents.

Over the next several years, thesefederal agents began conductingraids across the country, often with-out warrants. This was accompaniedby a lot of martial rhetoric from theNixon administration, which servedto dehumanize drug offenders. Sev-eral of these botched raids began toget news coverage, and, in one ofthose rare moments when the drugwar wasn’t yet completely intractable,Congress held hearings and actuallyrepealed the no-knock law in 1974.But the policy soon made a come-back, even in the absence of congres-sional authorization.

Throughout the 1970s, these two

The election of RonaldReagan brought newfunding, equipment,and a more active drug-policing role for theparamilitary SWATunits popping up across the country.

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trends developed simultaneously:the drug war continued to intensifyat the same time as the number ofSWAT teams proliferated. WhereasGates’s unit was the only SWATteam in the country in 1969, therewere over five hundred by 1975. Itwasn’t until 1980, however, that thewar on drugs andthe use of SWAT re-ally converged.

The election ofRonald Reaganbrought new fund-ing, equipment, anda more active drug-policing role for theparamilitary SWATunits popping upacross the country.Reagan’s new offen-sive in the war ondrugs involved a more confronta-tional and militaristic approach tocombating narcotics, a policy enthu-siastically embraced by Congress.Over the next decade, with proddingfrom the White House, Congresspaved the way to widespread mili-tary-style policing by carving out ex-ceptions to the Posse Comitatus Act.

In 1986, for instance, Reagan de-clared drugs a threat to U.S. nation-al security. A few years later, Con-gress ordered the National Guard tohelp with state drug-enforcementefforts. By 1989, President Bush hadcreated a series of regional taskforces within the Department ofDefense, which brought togetherpolice officers and soldiers for druginterdiction. And just five yearslater, Congress created a “reutiliza-tion program” to hand military

weaponry over to civilian policeagencies.

These changes, of course, were asignificant departure from long-standing domestic policy. Yet mostwere passed without much attentionfrom the media or the public. Any de-bate was muted by assurances from

politicians that thethreat of drugs wastoo pervasive to befought with tradi-tional policing. Crit-ics who feared forthe impact on civilliberties were dis-missed as alarmist.

There are twomajor milestonesthat occur after thispoint. The firstcomes in 1996 when

California decides to legalize medicalmarijuana. Up until this point, theargument for using SWAT teamswas that drug dealers were oftenheavily armed, dangerous peoplewho had no qualms about killing po-lice officers. The police needed to useviolence, in other words, to respondto a proportionate threat. Yet thisreasoning obviously no longer ap-plies once the federal governmentbegan raiding medical marijuanadispensaries with SWAT teams.These mom-and-pop shops wereclearly not a threat. It was aboutsending a message on marijuana,and it’s a terrifying developmentwhen the government starts using vi-olence to make a political statement.

The second major milestone hasto do with mission creep. Over thelast decade, SWAT teams have been

4 • Cato’s Letter FALL 2013

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FALL 2013 Cato’s Letter • 5

used for increasingly pettycrimes. In 2007, for instance,a Dallas SWAT team raided aVeterans of Foreign Warsoutpost for hosting charitypoker games. In 2010, ateam of heavily armed Or-ange County, Florida, sher-iff’s deputies raided severalbarbershops, holding bar-bers and customers at gun-point while they turned the shops in-side out. Of the 37 people arrested,34 were taken in for “barbering with-out a license.”

I’d like to close with a story that il-lustrates how truly absurd the cur-rent state of affairs is. In 2001, on thenight after Christmas, 21-year-oldCory Maye was asleep at home inMississippi with his 18-month-olddaughter. The police had conducteda drug raid on the other half ofMaye’s duplex based on a confiden-tial tip, but they ended up finding lit-tle more than a gram of marijuana.

They came into Maye’s apart-ment next, and although the offi-cers claim they knocked and an-nounced themselves, Maye says thathe heard neither. He woke up in hisliving room to the sound of peoplebreaking into his apartment, ran tohis daughter’s bedroom where helaid down by her, and took out his.38 caliber pistol. When a figureburst into the bedroom, Maye firedthree times and killed Officer RonJones. Maye then surrendered anddropped his gun with three bulletsstill left in it. Police found onesmoked joint in the apartment.

Maye had no criminal recorduntil he was subsequently convicted

of capital murder and sentenced todeath by lethal injection. Through along and protracted legal process, hisconviction was overturned by theMississippi Supreme Court and hewas given a new trial. Maye eventuallypleaded guilty to manslaughter andwas sentenced to 10 years in prison,which he had already served.

I tell this story because I was atCory’s homecoming party in Missis-sippi—a big celebration with his entirefamily—and I was talking to his attor-ney about how happy we were forhim. Eventually, though, we both re-alized how absurd that was. Here wasa man who had done nothing wrong.He had people break into his home inthe middle of the night, put him in aterrifying life or death position, andeventually—after trying to kill him forit—the state settled on taking himaway from his children for 10 years.And this is one of the good stories. It’san illustration of just how low our ex-pectations have become.

There’s an old Cold War sayingcommonly attributed to WinstonChurchill that goes, “Democracymeans that when there’s a knock onthe door at 3 a.m., it’s probably themilkman.” Unfortunately, that nolonger seems to be the case. n

“There’s an old ColdWar saying that goes,‘Democracy means that when there’s aknock on the door at 3 a.m., it’s probably the milkman.’

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6 • Cato’s Letter FALL 2013

What exactly is the Troubled CurrenciesProject? The Troubled Currencies Project is a jointCato Institute–Johns Hopkins research pro-gram I have founded, which focuses on coun-tries whose currencies are experiencing severedepreciation, and, in consequence, inflation.At present, the Troubled Currencies Project istracking currencies in Argentina, Egypt, Iran,North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela.

With the assistance of my undergraduateresearch team at Johns Hopkins, I collectblack-market exchange-rate data in thesecountries. The black-market exchange rate isthe most important free-market price in aneconomy experiencing currency troubles.Using these data, I can estimate the implied in-flation rate in countries where reliable infla-tion rates would otherwise not be available.

You recently wrote in the Wall Street Jour-nal that the government should "put the fateof the greenback in the hands of con-sumers." What do you mean by this?The op-ed you are referring to (“To MakeSense of the COINS Act, Follow the Money,”Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2013) dealt withthe so-called COINS Act, which would abol-ish the dollar bill and replace it with a dollarcoin. This legislation is a Washington boon-doggle of the highest order.

Americans clearly prefer dollar bills tocoins. So, the only way for certain politiciansto engineer a switch to the dollar coin is to lit-erally give consumers no choice in the matter.

Instead of getting caught up in a politicalbattle over which type of $1 currency the gov-

ernment mandates, I proposed that we sim-ply privatize the production of notes. Themoney supply would still be controlled bythe Fed, but the actual production of billswould be handled by private enterprise. IfAmericans prefer bills to coins, these busi-nesses would thrive. If Americans prefercoins, they would go bust. In short, weshould let consumers, not politicians, decidethe fate of the dollar bill.

How did the march toward greater militaryinvolvement with Syria affect that country'scurrency?Following U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’ssaber-rattling statements on August 26, thevalue of the Syrian pound zigged and zaggeda great deal. Indeed, the pound lost 24.7 per-cent of its value against the U.S. dollar in thetwo days following Kerry’s announcement.

Then, on August 29, we saw a sharp rever-sal in the course of the pound. Why? Weneed look no further than the eroding sup-port for a U.S.-led strike against Syria. TheUnited States had lost support from impor-tant allies: the United Kingdom, Canada,and Italy.

At present, the diplomatic tango takingplace between the United States, Russia, andSyria has brought some semblance of stabili-ty to the pound, at least for now. As Obama,Putin, Assad, and others continue to negoti-ate a potentially war-averting chemicalweapons deal, the black-market Syrianpound / U.S. dollar exchange rate is hoveringaround 210, indicating that Syrians are hold-ing their breath—just like everybody else.n

STEVE H. HANKE is a professor of applied economics at theJohns Hopkins University. He is also a senior fellow and director ofthe Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute. During the1980s, he served as a senior economist in President Ronald Rea-gan’s Council of Economic Advisers, and later as a senior adviserto the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. Hanke was re-cently honored by the Bulgarian Academy of Science with hisfourth doctorate, honoris causa, in recognition of his scholarshipon exchange-rate regimes. He and his wife, Liliane, reside in Balti-more and Paris. You can follow him on Twitter at @Steve_Hanke.

Cato Scholar Profile:STEVE H. HANKE

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FALL 2013 Cato’s Letter • 7

ver the past few years, plannedgifts—such as bequests and bene-ficiary designations of retirement

assets—have become an important and in-creasing component of Cato’s support.Without such gifts, Cato’s defense of libertywould be less robust. Therefore, in an effortto recognize and encourage planned gifts, weare pleased to announce the creation of theCato Legacy Society. All Sponsors who havemade Cato part of their estate plans are wel-come as members.

If you have in-cluded Cato in yourplans but have notyet let us know,please do so and wewill gladly includeyou as a Cato LegacySociety member.You can simply contact Cato’s director ofplanned giving, Gayllis Ward, [email protected] or 202-218-4631. Please beassured that we are sensitive to privacy is-sues and will not publish any list of LegacySociety members.

As a gesture of appreciation, Cato LegacySociety members will receive a complimenta-ry book, DVD, or other publication at leastonce a year. You will also be invited to attendCato’s annual Benefactor Summit. Whilenormally this invitation-only event is restrict-ed to those who make annual contributionsof $5,000 or more, Legacy Society membersare also welcome to attend this wonderfulthree-day weekend retreat. Of course, all at-tendees are responsible for their own traveland conference expenses (meals, hotel etc.).

If you have any questions about how to

best structure your planned gift to Cato,please feel free to contact Gayllis Ward, ourplanned giving officer. For example, you maywant to chat about pending tax-law changesor you may want to discuss how to craft a giftthat would benefit a particular area at Cato.Your area of interest might be student programs or foreign policy or curbing ourrunaway spending. The important thing toremember is that Cato welcomes both un-restricted and restricted bequests: an unre-

stricted bequest al-lows Cato to deter-mine the best usefor your gift, where-as a restricted be-quest lets you makethe choice.

Let me close bythanking you, our

Sponsors, for your generous supportwhich makes it possible for Cato to speakon behalf of freedom, civil society, and therule of law. Because these principles areunder brutal siege, support for Cato hasnever been more important. Moreover, spe-cial thanks go to those Sponsors who havedecided to leave a lasting legacy of free-dom—by making a planned gift to Cato.Planned gifts, literally, “touch” the futureand help ensure that generations yet tocome will know the prosperity and peacebestowed by a civil society.

If you would like more informationabout planned giving at Cato or if youwould like to join the Cato Legacy Society,please contact Gayllis Ward, director ofplanned giving, at [email protected] or 202-218-4631. n

O

Announcing the Cato Legacy Society

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