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In earlier columns, I have written about unconstitutional body cavity searches. The previous incidents occurred in Texas, but as in all trends, both good and bad, we are now seeing occurrences in other states as well. No longer is it just women that are being victimized, but men as well. Since last July because of lawsuits that have been filed, the press has reported four other notable incidents that include one against the Deming, New Mexico Police Department, that was recently settled at taxpayer’s expense for $1.6 million after police held the victim hostage and subjected him to unlawful medical procedures in a search for narcotics based on the clenching of buttocks and an alert by a narcotics dog.
On the heels of Deming Police come the US Customs and Border Protection officers that conducted a similar search on a woman crossing back into Texas from Juarez, and now the Chicago Police Department that strip-searched three men and a woman, including forcing the woman to remove her tampon in an alley and then conducting a body cavity search in front of other male officers. And did I mention that in each of these instances no drugs were found? These searches are invasive, degrading and exemplify how the drug war subverts the rule-of-law, destroys lives and contributes to a culture in law enforcement that by its very silence supports this unlawful behavior.
An article in the Chicago Sun-Times quoted the lawsuit and described the officers’ actions as “exceeding all bounds of human decency.” I would go further and describe them as a violation of not just of our constitutional rights but of human rights as well. Human rights are societal norms enshrined throughout the world. They are inherent, yet are being systematically ignored by those in a position to effect change. I have a theory and it centers on how the drug war has marginalized people in the eyes not just of law enforcement, but our own communities.
Though many prohibitionists publicly declare that there is no drug war I would beg to differ as these examples show the dehumanizing nature of a prolonged war mentality. These incidents occur because of the ongoing system-wide failure by our government that supports the drug war machine while blaming individual actions rather than rogue policy for these abuses. Martin Luther King once said:
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
We are currently in a period of great social change as the public recognizes the many failures of our drug policy. Yet a large number of those that could and should help remain largely silent. It is this silence that is deafening and demands the answer to at what point will our political and our law enforcement leaders take note and recognize the truly detrimental consequences of a bad policy? Does it have to be when they themselves, or someone they love, are victimized in this fashion? Their silence speaks volumes and continues to perpetuate the belief that this conduct is acceptable in the name of prohibition. So in order to save law enforcement, can we just end the drug war, please?