If you are one of the many people that showed your friends, co-workers, and family the video of Columbia, Mo. SWAT officers raiding the home of Jonathan Whitworth and shooting his dogs immediately after kicking in the door, then you helped make a real difference for the people of Columbia and elsewhere.
According to Ken Burton, police chief of Columbia, the public outcry that followed the release and viral spread of this disturbing video forced his department to make major changes to the way in which it uses its SWAT teams. The direct result of this has been that “dynamic entry” of the sort that led to the tragic events in the video has not been used for drug enforcement once in 2011!
This is a wonderful example of how information-sharing and public pressure can have a direct impact on the unjust and violent policies of the war on drugs. We have the power to change things for the better, and we have to use it. Simply sharing videos is not enough, however. We need to consistently engage anyone and everyone on the issues arising from the prohibition of marijuana, and keep doing so until the truth is impossible to ignore. This is a good start!
In the latest development in the quest for justice in Columbia, Missouri, Jonathan Whitworth and family are suing the officers responsible for a botched February SWAT raid that endangered their lives and resulted in the death of one of their dogs.
This story received national attention when a video was released showing the police entering the home in what they call a “dynamic entry” and immediately opening fire, killing one dog and injuring another. After enormous pressure from the media and activist community, the Columbia Police Chief agreed to revise the city’s SWAT guidelines to prevent further incidents.
Unfortunately, the officers involved were never disciplined for their dangerous behavior, and both the chief and police review board found that they had acted appropriately. While this family will have to suffer the lasting pain of losing a pet and the trauma of a violent intrusion in their lives, the paramilitary thugs that terrorized them, over a gram of marijuana and a pipe, suffered no consequences whatsoever.
Let’s hope the judge hearing this case feels differently.
Just in case you haven’t seen the video, this is what the officers are being sued for: