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12/12/2005 Archived Entry: "Cory Maye should not die"

I'VE BEEN READING RADLEY BALKO'S COVERAGE of the tragedy of Cory Maye. Maye is on death row for shooting a home-invasion burglar who turned out to be a cop smashing into his duplex at 11:30 at night.

I should have blogged about this days ago. But some injustices leave me so stunned that I'm speechless until I can find something useful to say about them. Weirdly enough, I had just completed an article about stupidly fatal paramilitary police raids. On the day I learned about the Maye horror, that article was flatly rejected. (I'll probably recraft it and submit it elsewhere. If not, I might blog it later.)

I recently talked with criminologist Peter B. Kraska (the man who created the meme "militarizing Mayberry"). His research shows that there are about 40,000 paramilitary police raids in the U.S. each year and that some 80 percent of them are used in routine (albeit extraordinarily dramatic) service of drug-war search warrants. NOT arrest warrants, mind you. But search warrants. Police are smashing down doors in the middle of the night solely to gather evidence of possible drug activity. And all too often, they find either no drugs or some petty amount of drugs -- but leave a dead body or a shattered family behind. And they always, in these ill-planned, poorly justified, unnecessarily violent attacks on little guys, leave a growing gulf between police and the citizens they're supposed to "protect and serve."

In Cory Maye's case, he probably wasn't even the cops' target. It appears to be another case of "mistakes were made." Or, giving the very, very most charitable interpretation, another case of absurdly sloppy (to non-existant) investigative work. But the police get the benefit of the doubt, while Maye is scheduled to get a lethal injection.

Police paramilitary raids against minor, non-violent law-breakers must stop. NOW. And completely. Every, single one of them is a tragedy -- a completely unnecessary tragedy -- waiting to happen. And the very fact that police agencies are choosing -- choosing -- to violently attack citizens who have offered no hint of violence is already a tragedy for the nation and for civilization.

Posted by Claire @ 09:50 AM CST

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