A Wake-up Call for Local Communities
Walter in Denver has the the details on a $1 billion lawsuit against Bethlehem, PA on behalf of John Hirko, Jr., a 21-year-old man who was shot 11 times in the back by police in a drug raid that also burned down his house.
Yes, that’s $1 billion with a B.
John Hirko is one of the unfortunates profiled on my Drug War Victims page, and finally a wrongful death suit is coming forward. However the suit turns out, it may serve as an important wake-up call that there are consequences to the unconscionable way we fight this failed war.
Time and time again, the families of drug war victims watch while the police are cleared with the words “justifiable shooting.” And really, in many cases that’s right. It’s often not the fault of the police that they’ve been put into this military-style confrontation that so often results in collateral damage.
Unfortunately, it may take actions like this to make communities wake up and realize that drug task forces are a liability. In this case, a huge taxpayer liability. The family of Donald P. Scott received a settlement of $5 million from county and feds in a fatal botched raid in Malibu, where the authorities were hoping to seize his property. Denver paid off $400,000 for killing Ismael Mena.
Meanwhile, the lawyers for the Tulia defendants are filing a civil rights lawsuit against a variety of county entities, and Swisher County (realizing that they’re in enough trouble) has refused to help the prosecutor in that case in the defense of misconduct charges.
The taxpayers are already dumping tons of money down the drain in the war on drugs, but the government has been largely successful in hoodwinking the public as to their contribution. Now that local budgets may be decimated by lawsuits, people may start to wake up. In fact, every local council that cooperates with a federal drugs task force should be made aware of this.
If your city or county is involved, or considering involvement with, a military-style drugs task force, stop by their next council meeting and ask how they plan to come up with a billion dollars if they’re sued. Ask them if they’ve come up with an acceptable number of innocent casualties to go along with their decision to use no-knock raids for pot. And then let me know how they react.
- DrugWarRant.com, the longest running single-issue blog devoted to drug policy
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