Below is an Op-Ed, written Raeford Davis, he recalls the violence he and other officers perpetuated against the small South Carolina town of North Charleston. In a personal recount of his actions while serving as a cop, Davis paints a picture of the damage done to the communities by the violence police enact on a daily basis. The points made about prohibition and the negative effects of the drug war resonate even harder when you consider the source used to run perimeter security for SWAT team drug raids and other operations targeting the use or sale of narcotics.
There was a time in Raeford Davis’s life when the idea of putting on a police uniform and a badge brought him joy. Law enforcement seemed a natural fit for the South Carolina native, growing up, as he did, around people who dedicated themselves to helping others. His mother was a school teacher, and his father worked in nursing.
So Davis took the plunge in 2002, joining the police department in the small, violence-plagued city of North Charleston. The city’s police force came under national scrutiny last year when Officer Michael T. Slager was caught on camera shooting unarmed black man Walter Scott eight times in the back after a traffic stop. (Slager is scheduled to go to trial for first-degree murder in October after being released on $500,000 bail in January.) Davis was troubled almost from the start of his career by the department’s approach to combatting drug-fueled violence in minority communities. Policies aimed at disrupting the drug trade seemed ineffective — at best. At worst, kicking down doors in SWAT gear and locking up juveniles who had few options outside of the local drug world seemed legitimately harmful. The moral conflict ate away at him. Davis retired as a patrolman in 2006, after being hit by a car while on duty and suffering a broken leg.
The 43-year-old now works with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit against the war on drugs. I remember very early on in my career, I was on patrol in an area where we were basically pulling people over for not using their turn signals, and then turning [the stop] into a drug search. I was with some officers who pulled over a black kid on a moped for not using a signal. There were four or five of us, big guys in uniforms with guns on our hips, all standing around him. We asked, “You don’t mind if we search your vehicle do you, to see if you have any drugs?” What’s this kid going to do? He’s not going to say no. We stripped the moped. He didn’t have anything. We sent him on his way. But I felt like we earned that kid’s enmity that day.
Another time, we were doing traffic stops and I had a K-9 officer with me. We stopped a guy basically just because he was in a drug neighborhood. He was a middle-aged black guy driving a nice car. We brought the dog over. It jumped up on the side of the car and scratched the door. Then, of course, the dog jumps in the car all over his leather seats and scratches them. I can see the dog doing this, and I’m thinking, Holy shit! We didn’t find anything in the car, which was now all scratched up. It was like, “Here’s your ticket for failure to use a turn signal, and have a nice day.” Brutal. All because he aroused our merest suspicion.
I wasn’t on a SWAT team, but I did perimeter security when the SWAT teams did drug warrant raids. They’d hit the crappiest houses in the crappiest part of town. You know, kick the door open, fly in with rifles, pull all these people out, and find a couple of grams of drugs and $700 in cash. That amount of effort and violence in a neighborhood that’s had a drug problem since before I was born seemed horribly dangerous and counterproductive.
Continue reading at TheMarshallProject.org