Another victim of the War on Drugs overnight: Senior Constable Len Snee, shot and killed in Napier "during a routine drug bust." His name may be added to that of Sergeant Don Wilkinson, shot and killed in Hain Avenue, Mangere East, in September last year, as two more police victims of the failed War on Drugs in just the last twelve months.
Both were shot and killed in "routine drugs busts" -- the latest described by police themselves as "a very mundane low level cannabis operation." The mother of Snee's murderer seems more clear eyed about the whole horrendous situation than all the policeman now impotently camped outside her son’s house, "What are they trying to protect?" asked Anna Molenaar. "A silly marijuana plant? What a thing to protect...now someone's been shot and someone's in hospital. Just can't comprehend it really, just can't comprehend it."
It's hard to comprehend, isn't it, all too hard, that when you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana -- less harmful, according to the British medical journal Lancet than both alcohol and tobacco -- then what you're doing is ensuring is more harm than you can imagine, and more deaths like these.
When you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana, you don't make it disappear, you simply put the sale of the drug in the hands of criminals -- and if criminals don't care what your War-on-Drugs laws say, then they sure as hell won't care what your gun laws say either. When you criminalise drugs, then "routine" drugs busts become life and death situations.
That's hardly "harm minimisation," is it.
And there's something even more disgraceful, if that’s possible, and that’s the way police are handling this situation.
While the gunman is holed up inside, a dead or dying policeman is lying outside, and has done for nearly twenty-four hours. Speaking late last night, his colleagues were unable even to confirm whether Senior Constable Len Snee was alive or dead! Look, the gunman may have explosives but he has no one else in the house with him, yet while he was and still is being treated with kid gloves, a policeman has been allowed to die, and a city itself held hostage.
Is there some reason overwhelming force can’t be used on a man who has already foregone his right to life? Is there any reason any other life at all should be put at risk in extracting the murderer from his foxhole. Is there some reason tear gas, grenades, fire, light armoured vehicles, bazookas, mortars or heavy artillery – or even just plain good tactical policing – can’t be used against someone who they now have no reason to treat with anything else but disdain? Yes, he might blow himself and his house up, and he might even cause wider damage further afield, but why the hell didn’t they evacuate the nearby houses, rescue their colleague, and clear the situation and the gunman up at least a dozen hours ago!
When South Auckland police spent forty-eight minutes "securing the scene" while bottle store owner Navtej Singh lay bleeding to death on his shop floor last year, it looked like bald incompetence. Now, it’s beginning to look like it’s standard police “strategy.”
It’s as dumb as the War on Drugs itself.
I’m almost speechless.
UPDATE: MikeE isn’t speechless:
Am I the only one who sees something a little bit like Ruby Ridge with this police siege?
Man is minding his own business, growing pot in his property.
Police come, try to arrest him for victimless crime.
He defends himself (using a vastly inappropriate level of force) taking out one cop, injuring three others.
Scene escalates due to police procedural incompetence, and bad drug laws.
UPDATE 2: I can’t resist posting this story from last year; that New Zealand's "hopelessly out of date and irrelevant" drug laws need a shake-up to fight a changing narcotics landscape, delegates to two “high-powered conferences” told the Herald.
At the Beyond 2008 Regional Consultation for Australasia, delegates from community organisations meet to discuss alternative answers to the drug problem.
The delegates will push for a move away from the predominantly United States-led "War on Drugs", to a more treatment-based approach. . .
Clearly, they’re even more out of dates than they were last year.
UPDATE 3: The usually sane MacDoctor thinks the argument that the War on Drugs causes violence is absurd. In fact, worse then absurd, it’s “the most pathetic and meaningless argument I have ever heard.” See:
But if you truly want absurdity, then look no further than Peter Cresswell’s argument that this all could have been avoided by legalising cannabis. Superficially, this is true. But it has to be the most pathetic and meaningless argument I have ever heard.
So it’s true “superficially” that when you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana you ensure more harm than would be due to the substance alone – that when you criminalise drugs, then "routine" drugs busts become life and death situations for police - but it’s otherwise pathetic and meaningless to point that out. Not quite sure how you untangle that.
Might I suggest that the good MacDoctor, who as a doctor is normally interested in evidence, should confront the reality of the War on Drugs declared by Richard Nixon thirty-eight years ago and which (like the American War on Alcohol in the twenties) has led not to the diminution of any of the banned substances but instead to a vast expansion of their supply, and not to peace and harmony but to violence, killing and death – of both lawmen and outlaws. As The Economist noted recently in a piece calling for a reconsideration of the whole War on Drugs,
the United States spends $40 billion and arrests 1.5 million people a year in an attempt to reduce illegal drug consumption. Keeping one prisoner in jail costs approximately $30,000 a year, and about half of the people in jail today are there because of drug offenses.
U.S. drug policies are making criminal gangs rich beyond belief and helping to destabilize countries around the world. It is now almost suicidal to be a police officer in Mexico, where officers are assassinated with impunity by drug lords -- violence that is spilling into the United States. Afghanistan's warlords -- as well as the Taliban, which has moved into parts of Pakistan -- support their troops with profits from opium sales.
In the United States, organized crime is responsible for most of the drug trade. These are the same kinds of gangs that made it rich bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition in the early 20th century. It should be clear by now that outlawing something only makes people want it more. . .
There are a lot of facts, myths and emotions on both sides of the issue, but that doesn't mean we should ignore it. And just because we have criminalized it for 50 years, does not mean that we have to continue doing so for the next 50 years.
Think about it. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re more than likely to keep getting what you’ve always got before. [NB: You can read some of The Economist’s account online, starting with ‘How to stop the drug wars.’)
UPDATE 4: Will de Cleene asks a few relevant questions still unanswered by an MSM big on emoting and short on reporting the facts:
No-one in the MSM is asking, so I will.
- How many cannabis plants did the cops find in Jan Molenaar's house when they broke in?
- How much would they be worth on the market?
- How much harm was prevented by their interception, BERL?
[Hat tip Brad Taylor]
Labels: Afghanistan, Journalism, Milton Friedman, Prohibition, Richard Nixon