Thursday, August 25, 2011

War on Drugs/Terror & the Transformation of the Police to "Instruments of Tyranny"

HBO's The Wire , a raw street drama intertwined with elements of Greek tragedy, is the greatest television show ever made, in my humble opinion, as it  deeply explores and reveals the often corrupt sociopolitcal forces that govern the institutions that compromise compose "real life" America, today.

David Simon, one of the show's creators, said that The Wire is much more than a police drama. The underlying theme is - regardless of whether you are judge, cop, drug dealer, attorney, teacher, longshoreman, etc - the individual's compromising of self that takes place in order to serve the institution that either cuts that person's paycheck, or to whom that individual has pledged his loyalty, and ultimately, the institution's betrayal of the person.

A secondary theme is the toll that the "war on drugs" has taken, not only on the poor communities, but on policing, itself.  Prior to the "war on drugs", not that it was perfect - it certainly wasn't - nevertheless, the policeman interacted with the people he served as he walked his beat each and every day.   Given that opportunity, he could develop relationship; therefore building trust.  Today,  the overly militarized commando units that the "war on drugs" created,  destroyed any of the trust that once existed.
Ever since the early 1980s, after President Reagan instituted the "war on drugs" the use of heavily-armed, SWAT teams dressed in full commando regalia, has significantly increased to the point where approximately 40,000 "no-knock raids are carried out each year for non-violent offenses.

In a scene from The Wire, Major Bunny Colvin lectures Sergeant Carver about the detrimental effect the war on drugs has had on policing, causing the transformation of the policeman to soldier. His lecture speaks for itself:

Major Colvin:...You're a good man, Sergeant. You've got good instincts, and as far as I can tell, you're a decent supervisor. But from where I sit, you ain't shit when it comes to policing. Don't take it personal. Ain't just you, it's all our young police...whole generation of y'all. No, think about it. You've been here over a year now, Carver. You got nobody looking out for you, nobody willing to talk to you. That about sum it up?

[Seargent Carver looks down, without responding]

Major Colvin: Now, that's a problem. And I didn't think there was anyway I was ever gonna get my head around it but then Dozerman gets shot for some bullshit. And that's about when I reach my limit. And that's when the idea of the free zone, of Hamsterdam, come to me. 
Before we started up with these war games, the cop walked a beat.  and he learned that post. You had your arrests, you had your seizures because this drug thing, this ain't police work No, it ain't. I mean, I can send any fool with a badge and a gun up on them corners and jack a crew and grab vials. But policing?

[Seargent Carver barely nods, acknowledging what Major Colvin is sayin]

Major Colvin: I mean, you call something a war...and pretty soon everybody gonna be running around acting like warriors. They gonna be running around on a damn crusade storming corners, slapping on cuffs, racking up body counts. And when you at war you need a fucking enemy. And pretty soon, damn near everybody on every corner is your fucking enemy. And soon the neighborhood that you're supposed to be policing ...that's just occupied torritory. You follow this?

Seargent Carver: I think so.

Major Colvin: Look here, the point I'm making, Carver, is this. Soldier and policing, they ain't the same thing. And before we went and took the wrong turn and started up with these war games, the cop walked a beat and he learned that post. And if there were things that happened up on that post whether they be a rape or robbery, or shooting he had people out there helping him, feeding him information.

But every time I come to you, my DEU Sergeant, for information, to find out what's going on out their in them streets, all that came back was some bullshit.

[Sergeant Carver nods]

Major Colvin: You had your stats, you had your arrests, you had your seizures. But don't noe of that amount to shit when you talking about protecting a neighborhood, now, do it?

You know the worst thing about this so-called drug war, to my mind, it just...it ruined this job.

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