Prohibition Claims Another Victim

Jun 25, 2008

drug war, law enforcement, raids, victims

Can cops be victims in the war on marijuana users?

Consider the story of Det. Jarrod Shivers, a Chesapeake, Va., police officer who was allegedly shot and killed by Ryan Frederick – a young man with no history of violence or any real criminal tendencies save a fondness for marijuana.

Radley Balko of Reason magazine has done an excellent job investigating the story – which is predictably complicated and full of conflicting accounts and sordid details – so I'll just give a quick recap:

Ryan allegedly shot Det. Shivers through the front door of his house, apparently mistaking him for a burglar, as the cops tried to break it down during a raid.

His home had been broken into just days before – according to Balko's reporting, it seems likely it was done by the same informants who tipped the police off to Ryan in the first place, possibly at the request of the cops themselves. I told you this was sordid.

Ryan was no drug kingpin. The officers found nothing but a very small amount of marijuana and a modest grow setup in his house.

We may never know the full story, but the facts assembled by Balko suggest a situation fraught with human error: sketchy informants, a sloppy and unnecessary raid, a likely attempt at a cover-up: This particular tragedy was certainly avoidable had cooler heads prevailed at any point.

Incidents like these are inevitable, however, as long as we treat marijuana as a criminal matter and chase adult marijuana users around with assault rifles.

Det. Shivers should never have been at Ryan's house that day; his death was a needless waste.

But that's just what happens under marijuana prohibition.