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Chapel Hill News: Drug War Driving Police to Act Like 'Storm Troopers'


June 1993

The way in which the war on drugs has drawn police to adopt a more militaristic approach is serious cause for concern, according to an editorial stemming from the recent disposition of a class-action suit against police and the municipality of Chapel Hill, N.C. (Editorial, "Roses & Raspberries," Chapel Hill News, 5/28/93, A4; Julia White, "Judge Clears Officers In Drug Sweep," Chapel Hill Herald, 5/25/93, p. 1).

Although Superior Court Judge Knox Jenkins' cleared police and the town of Chapel Hill from any legal liability, he harshly criticized police for the 1990 blanket raid in which they donned masks and wielded guns, randomly patting down a crowd of 60 people for drugs outside a black nightclub. Police were holding warrants for five suspects they thought were on the street that night.

The editorial, praising Jenkins critique, comments: "Not just in Chapel Hill, but across the nation, police increasingly seem drawn to adopt a more and more militaristic image. While that image might strike terror in the hearts of suspects making them easier to arrest, it also raises fears and concerns in the rest of us. ... When police begin to look -- and act -- like storm troopers or secret police, we all have reason to be concerned. In the case of the Graham Street raid, police did act like storm troopers, taking everyone on the street into their custody. Fortunately, our courts still remember that one's mere presence on a street where crimes have been committed does not make one guilty of those crimes."