If you want a recent, vivid example of the corrosive effect the Drug War has on the character of law enforcement, look to the actions of the officers who raided Sky High Holistic, a medical marijuana dispensary located in Santa Ana, California, on May 27th of this year. The video footage shows officers, clad in black masks, barreling through the door of the dispensary, guns drawn, and proceeding to wreak havoc once inside. They destroyed an estimated $100,000 worth of business equipment, along with what they believed at the time to be all the surveillance cameras. Lucky for us, they missed a camera or two and allowed us a peek into what officer behavior is like when they think no one is watching.
According to the OC Weekly article, after destroying the place they proceeded to play darts, and even helped themselves to what could possibly have been pot-laced edibles. From the article: "The video footage shows an officer stuffing something into his mouth and handing something to another cop, who asks him "What flavor?" The officers then laugh. The footage is too grainy to be certain that the item that the officer picks up from the counter of the cannabis shop is in fact a pot edible, although the behavior of the officers suggests this is the case."
The thuggish behavior doesn't end there: "Also in the footage: a female police officer joking that she wanted to kick Marla James—a marijuana activist and wheelchair-bound amputee who was present during the raid—in her "nub." Marla was shocked upon learning that the officer joked about assaulting her: "James struggled to understand why the female officer in the video would make fun of her disability. "You know what, I was really nice to that woman," James said. "I even complimented her on her hair. I treated that woman with respect and I have no idea why she wanted to kick my stump."
It may astonish Marla that officers of the law would conduct themselves in such a crude manner, but it shouldn't be astonishing to anyone who understands the environment that the Drug War imposes upon both law enforcement and citizenry. It has increasingly become one of jailer/inmate, or king/serf, rather than citizen/republic. Our dangerous servant becomes our master when given the authority to police what we are free to consume. More laws necessitate more police, and more discretion on the part of the police to be effective. "Effectiveness" here means greater, and more frequent use of, coercion, to get results.
This inevitable phenomenon of increasingly brutal tactics used to enforce all the various "plans" that government foists onto the public was described in chapter ten of The Road to Serfdom, entitled, Why the Worst Get on Top. Hayek states:
To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him.
The more laws, rules, regulations and outright prohibitions that our government enacts requires for their effective enforcement the deputizing of individuals whose character more closely resembles the reflexively violent, amoral nature of real criminals.
The side effects of making it policy to hire those violent enough to fight a Drug War are illustrated fairly well in the actions of the police at Sky High Holistic, but there are plenty of examples elsewhere. Take the phenomenon of "puppycide," the immediate shooting of a dog that clearly poses no threat to the officer. The shooting of a non-threatening family dog, more so if the family is begging you to do otherwise, seems to me to be the true mark of a barbarian, a thug who could only find a career in law enforcement in an artificially violent environment such as the one the Drug War blankets our society with. And there are so many examples of police killing dogs that a mailman could easily handle more humanely. There are equally as many examples of police endangering those around them in their zeal to execute the animal. It's the quality of the officer as a moral individual that is at issue here. A government that insists on planning society requires the services of those with a moral compass that allows gunning down family pets.
Hayek goes on:
Yet while there is little that is likely to induce men who are good by our standards to aspire to leading positions in the totalitarian machine, and much to deter them, there will be special opportunities for the ruthless and unscrupulous. There will be jobs to be done about the badness of which taken by themselves nobody has any doubt, but which have to be done in the service of some higher end, and which have to be executed with the same expertness and efficiency as any others. And as there will be need for actions which are bad in themselves, and which all those still influenced by traditional morals will be reluctant to perform, the readiness to do bad things becomes a path to promotion and power.
We, as citizens, are on the receiving end of the predictable brutality of low-IQ thugs, whom the government increasingly employs to do the dirty work of enforcing a growing list of do's and don'ts that are enshrined into law without a thought to the unintended consequences. The unintended consequences of the Drug War have taken center stage, from black market violence, the ascension of dangerous synthetic drugs, bulging prisons, a criminal underclass, a totalitarian overclass and the intentional selection of enforcers who have no qualms about using force to compel unconditional obedience.
Liberty humanizes us, markets humanize us; voluntary cooperation humanizes us. It is government that nudges out the barbarian in our nature.
Shane Smith is an accountant living in Norman, Oklahoma. He writes for Red Dirt Report. Liberty is his religion.