New York Times covers Kathryn Johnston fiasco

This is getting some important visibility, although this article fails to indicate that the problem extends well beyond the Atlanta police force.

ATLANTA — A narcotics team that shot and killed an elderly woman while raiding her home lied to obtain the search warrant, one team member has told federal investigators, according to news reports confirmed by a person familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity.
The officers falsely claimed that a confidential informant had bought $50 worth of crack at the house, the team member, Gregg Junnier, told the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Junnier retired from the Atlanta Police Department last week.
The story backs up statements by Alex White, a police informant, who said that after the shooting the police had asked him to claim, falsely, that he had bought crack at the modest home of the woman, Kathryn Johnston, whose age has been reported as both 88 and 92.
Ms. Johnston, pictured wearing a birthday crown in a widely used photograph, quickly became Exhibit A for complaints of excessive force by the police, prompting packed, angry town-hall-style meetings, accusations of systematic civil rights violations and calls for civilian review of police shootings in Atlanta.
The incident has also demoralized a police force where the number of narcotics officers has dwindled while, some critics say, pressure to make arrests has increased.
“The rest of the world is now hearing from the mouths of the police officers involved what we knew all along,” said the Rev. Markel Hutchins, a spokesman for Ms. Johnston’s relatives, who have maintained that she had nothing to do with illegal drugs and that neither her house nor her basement, which had a separate entrance, was used by dealers.

This story resonates because it really includes so many of the failings of the drug war wrapped up in one incident.

  • Reliance on unreliable snitch looking to make a deal
  • An overabundant credulity that the resident of the house was a drug dealer
  • A lack of respect by police towards citizens (particularly in certain… neighborhoods) resulting in action without proper investigation
  • Policy emphasis on showing results through numbers of drug busts
  • Police taking short-cuts with the law
  • Judge rubber-stamping a warrant
  • Bad policy demanding the use of inappropriate force for the type of arrest
  • The impossible situation placed on citizens between defending themselves and “trusting” the people who are breaking down their door.
  • Increased danger for police officers
  • An innocent person dying
  • Police cover-up when something goes wrong

Oh! What a Lovely War

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