Another "War on Drugs" Casualty

(Ed. note: Yes I know it is “Buy and Bust” and not the opposite. I just wanted to make sure I am keeping you on your toes.

A suspected drug dealer was shot and killed by police last night just a few miles away from where I live. The scenario, which played out in a fast-food parking lot in Beaumont, Texas, happens probably in great numbers every day across the country.

Police call the exercise aimed at snaring a drug dealer in the act as “buy and bust.” There is nothing magic about how it goes down, it’s just like it sounds. A suspect is targeted. An undercover cop arranges a drug buy with the suspect. Police stage themselves around the area and hope things go well for them. But if things don’t turn out in favor of the cops or the suspects — as in this case — someone may get wounded or even killed.

From what the above-linked story indicates, the alleged dealer tried to run over officers with his Chevy pickup. Most telling was the little fact that the man shot by police was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Figure what you want but that act seemed to me as if the suspect thought gunplay might ensue. Perhaps he even figured out the potential customer was a narc.

Most of the general public will likely not share a tear for the deceased. Hey, it’s just another casualty in the so-called “War on Drugs” which seems to have been lost many, many years ago. But what the public should recognize is that the undercover narc or any of the other officers who showed up for the bust could just as easily have been harmed as the bad guy.

If the police is going to continue to arrest people for selling small amounts of drugs — I don’t know if that was the case in this incident but usually small amounts are taken in this kind of operation — then they should really look hard at the cost-benefit ratio.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing — a cop think-tank if you will — points out that although such tactics can lessen “open-air market” drug sales, the dealers will often change their tactics. Buy and bust hardly make a dent in the drug distribution system. And because small amounts of drugs usually are confiscated the result is that the dealers who are busted rarely get lengthy prison sentences.

What is the cost and what is the benefit? It is something that should be examined every time an incident like this takes place. But what do I know, right?

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