|The Future of Freedom Foundation|
By now many people have heard that an 88-year-old Atlanta woman who lived alone was shot dead November 21 by police raiding her home on the basis of a confidential informant's claim that he had bought crack cocaine from a man at that location. However, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the unidentified informant says the police told him after the shooting to lie about the drug buy.
Kathryn Johnston, whom the newspaper said was "described by neighbors as feeble and afraid to open her door after dark," was killed as police, executing a no-knock warrant, forcibly entered her home. Johnston fired on the men with a rusty pistol she kept for protection in her rough neighborhood, wounding three police officers. Returning the fire, the police killed Johnston. The injuries to the police were not life-threatening.
The police story has changed several times, raising serious credibility questions. For example, the police said they found narcotics in Johnston's home, but later they said they found only a small amount of marijuana, which is not regarded as a narcotic. The FBI is investigating.
This sort of thing happens all too often. As Radley Balko documents in the Cato Institute White Paper "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America:"
The fact is, without the War on Drugs atrocities such as the killing of Kathryn Johnston wouldn't be happening. It is the very nature of victimless crimes that pushes the police to use unscrupulous tactics. In a victimless crime, such as an illegal drug transaction, there is no complaining witness, no one with an interest in reporting the crime to the police. After all, the buyer and seller willingly participate in the transaction. Thus, the only way the police can detect the criminal activity is to set it up themselves or encourage informants. But the opportunity for corruption in these tactics is immense. For example, informants looking for a favor from the police have an incentive to provide false information. You have only to read the newspapers to find details of corrupt law enforcement in connection with drug prohibition.
In a free
society adults have the right to ingest whatever they want. It's no business
of the government. But if it makes such peaceful private activity its
business, law enforcement will inevitably turn to measures that jeopardize
the lives of people who have harmed no one else. Let's end this madness
Scott McPherson is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Samuel Bostaph is head of the economics department at the University of Dallas and an academic advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Anthony Gregory is a policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy (Palgrave, January 2006) and Terrorism & Tyranny (Palgrave, 2003), and is policy advisor at The Future of Freedom Foundation
Benedict LaRosa is a historian and writer and serves as a policy advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation
Bart Frazier is program director at The Future of Freedom Foundation.
Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va., author of Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State, and editor of The Freeman magazine. Visit his blog Free Association."
Mr. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Send him email.