Drug addiction and drug trafficking are undoubtedly among society's most intractable and debilitating problems. They have resisted all efforts by law enforcement. Drug use seems to increase no matter what is done. In frustration, the Los Angeles Police Department has now unveiled a new weapon in the fight. The police call it a motorized battering ram, but everyone else calls it a tank. As demonstrated last week, it can knock down the wall of a house, catch the occupants by surprise and prevent them from destroying evidence. But at what cost to the rights of individuals?
One night last week, with great fanfare, the police employed their motorized battering ram to break into a house in Pacoima that they suspected was a well-fortified center of drug dealing. Police Chief Daryl F. Gates was so proud of the event that he personally christened the new tank and then rode inside it, while cameras rolled, as it did its dirty work. Afterward he boasted that the battering ram went through the wall "like butter," and the police swat team was inside the house in six seconds.
As things turned out, there was no evidence that the place was a major "rock house." The occupants included two women and three children, some of whom were eating ice cream when the police showed up. Despite their claims of having bought drugs earlier in the house, the police appear to have picked the wrong place to try out their new toy. A simple knock on the door would have gained them entry.