Thursday, September 09, 2010

Detective murdured in War on Drugs

Some of the armed and armoured police who swarmed
 into Bankstown after the shooting
(photo Kate Gehragty, SMH)
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:
William Crews, a 26-year-old detective-in-training, was taken to Liverpool Hospital after he was shot in the head with a .22 calibre rifle. He was pronounced dead at 12.30am today.

Mr Crews, a detective senior constable originally from rural Australia, was involved in a raid on an apartment building on Cairds Avenue, Bankstown, about 9pm. Officers were executing a search warrant for drugs when a number of shots were fired.

A group of people inside the building opened fire and the officer was shot, sources said.

Five people were initially arrested, while police had to negotiate the surrender of another three suspects. 
Detective Crews was a member of the Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad. The incident sparked an inrush of police, from the Riot Squad to counter-terrorism specialists and helicopters. The whole street was cordoned off and residents were cowering in fear, several saying they did not feel safe in their own suburb.

The media is following a well-worn route here, reporting the tragedy in terms of heroic police, bad guys, guns and of course DRUGS.

But I will be very surprised if public figure mentions prohibition and the War on Drugs - the fundamental cause of all this pain, mayhem and massive spending of public money.

The sad fact is that this death, and others, are unnecessary. The victims are casualties in and martyrs to a War which causes far more harm than the drugs it fails to control.

No drugs were found in the raid. [On day two of this story no-one has been charged with murder and there is speculation the policeman was shot by one of his own colleagues in "friendly fire", making this a double tragedy. Two men named Nguyen and Geehad were charged with shooting offences.]

Saddest of all is that people who believe in prohibition, including most police, will come away from this with hardened attitudes towards drug criminals and will intuitively lean towards yet more prohibition.

But they should spend some time reading about an alternative police view, from US justice professionals who have formed LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. They are mostly police who have seen through the War on Drugs rhetoric, people whose frontline experience has taught them that prohibition causes more harm than the drugs they cannot control.

Meanwhile the next-to-top headline in the same newspaper talks about a cocaine epidemic in Sydney. But who will join the dots and conclude that this rise is evidence that prohibition is ineffective and  shows the futility of yet another  Drug War casualty?

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione is claiming a 76% increase in cocaine arrests is because police are doing a 'good' job but Don Weatherburn from BOCSAR says hospital admissions for cocaine overdoses are also rising.

"It's simply disingenuous to say this is nothing more than an increase in police activity,'' he said.

By the end of the night, interestingly, no-one had been charged with murder.

And Opposition leader Farry O'Barrell had come out with a call for mandatory life sentences for people who murder police - a fantastically original political ploy that does zero to address the cause of the problem.

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