Once again, the nation is agonized over a police killing of a person of color. Once again, mistrust between the community and the police rile riots that rope in the innocent. This time, it is the case of Breonna Taylor, killed in a botched drug raid. Once again, partisan media divides distort the realities, which makes myths, which then become the arguments.

This scribbler concedes that the picture of Breonna Taylor as a heroic EMT gunned down in her bed is mainly myth. Evidence is mounting that her residence was a “trap house” (a place where narcotics are distributed). The warrant for the no-knock raid indicated that she received packages for her drug dealing ex-boyfriend (ironically, arrested before the Taylor raid). The dealer’s car was tracked to her driveway multiple times. It is naive to maintain that she did not know he was a player in the drug game. When the raid was executed, she was caught in a cross-fire between her boyfriend and the police, both trying to defend their lives. The officer who blindly sprayed the apartment with gunfire has been dealt with appropriately, which is a bit of progress given the policing precedents of our many other race-incident agonies.

All of these are true, but they are distractions from what really killed Ms Taylor. If the police can violate the sanctity of her castle based solely on her associations and mind-reading on what she knew of her ex’s activities, then we have principles of policing based more on ESP than on any law of this reality plane. Guilt-by-association is not a thing in our legal system (or more accurately, wasn’t a thing before the drug war). Which is why all of the parsing of the case by the State Attorney General is so unsatisfying. The law cannot dress up in legalism such a violation of an American’s home, based on such stretches of interpretation and non-principles.

This is why both sides of the argument miss the point about holding the police involved accountable: serious errors in judgement were made, and we always want someone to pay (though government agents rarely do. This is a fundamental element of the riots). But holding these officers responsible for a bad outcome of a bad policy which has been developing for a half century, and created by laws they do not make, is unsatisfactory scapegoating. It is also a distortion to focus fury (or defense) on the officers involved.

I had some shady associates in my life, and I would not want the police busting in my door unannounced because of them. What is publicly known about the warrant is very thin stuff: “proceeds of illegal activity” and “paraphernalia,” which, translated, means money and maybe a pipe.

The state’s case makes mockery of the idea of Americans homes as their castles. No-knock raids in cases where there is no threat to life are for making policing easier, but they are incredibly dangerous to everyone else. They are also a dire risk for those of us who believe in a right to self-defense with privately held firearms. We have a concept for when the convenience of the police in the state is its highest priority: it is called a police state.

Why was Ms Taylor’s castle raided as it was? Because the drug war has set in motion an evolution, like all wars do: nobody buys drugs from some hep-cat on the street anymore. Nowadays, you get the contact number from someone in a network, and they come deliver your product, like a pizza. The bag-man will have a very precise amount of product with them. How precise? The amount will be just under what it takes to be charged with possession with intent to distribute. If anyone gets busted, the network disappears; the phones, all burners, vanish. See all those burner phones in the convenience stores? They are not all for marriage cheating.

Drug kingpins rarely factor in arrests anymore because they have adapted. They stay secure in their Narco states. They piggyback their distribution on the globalized supply chain. The chain is so efficient it can take a used T-shirt out of the trash in America and send it around the world on the rag circuit, all the way to Africa. That’s for a product of some permanence, with zero value added. Illicit drugs are the opposite of that: tiny, consumable, with high value-added. The cartels’ distribution networks are so efficient they reach into remote (and destitute) West Virginia. West Virginian prosecutors will not be getting their hands on the cartel players. They will be scooping up small numbers of expendable, little distributors, i.e. “mowing the grass.”

Which brings us to Breonna Taylor and her (alleged) trap house: The escalations the government needs to counter trap-house tactics are simply not compatible with a country of free people living in their castles. Trap-house tactics constantly move low level supplies into the house to avoid getting busted for distribution. Small amounts can be disposed of easily, and that creates the need for the police to be on them without warning. Large amounts of drugs cannot be disposed of in the time it takes for the police to warn residents that the attack on their home is a lawful one.

Which means the evolution has brought us to outrageously dangerous counters against very small offenses. Ms. Taylor was grass, but mowing her down will cost the citizens of Louisville 12 million dollars, before counting the effects of the community’s rage and the loss of trust in the police.

There is another, much more important, evolution: the erosions our traditional rights, starting with our gun rights. Not too long ago, you could get an anti-tank rifle out of a magazine, and we had less violence, because we had no drug war. Americans can no longer possess or move, large amounts of cash money (or what the police might deem “paraphernalia”).

But the worst of the evolution has been the conversion of our legal system into a processing machine, so compromised because of the excessive amount of work our policies forces it do (like trying to apply ESP). We have the world’s highest incarceration rate, with vast swathes of the nation permanently estranged from legal avenues with which to make their livings (which drives them into the criminal undergrounds). These are all evolutions in the drug fight we have accepted, already. And the criminal’s counters to those will call for more.

The law establishes the evolutionary parameter, the players adapt. Defense, counter. All our natural system, in all of their diversity, on our miraculous planet, are in this flux of constant adaptation. No mere law can freeze the process in place.

Breonna Taylor’s case resonates because she is the perfect metaphor for the drug war: millions upon millions of Americans safely use illicit drugs without complication every day of the week (and twice on Sunday). Bad outcomes are outliers, given the scale of the consumption, but everyone using illicit drugs safely (not to mention the by-standers), are guilty-by-association. So, the war is waged, expensively destroying the poor communities the war is supposed to uphold, for their own good.

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


Like this post?