Houston, TX — Four Houston police officers were shot on Monday during a drug raid on a suspected heroin dealer's home. Luckily, the officers are all expected to survive although two of the officers are in critical condition. The two suspected drug dealers were both shot and killed during the raid.
On Monday afternoon, around 5:00 pm, a dozen SWAT team members with Houston's narcotics department, along with six other patrol officers descended on a Pecan Park home to serve a search warrant. According to police, their undercover agents had purchased black tar heroin from the home several times before the raid.
As police approached the door, however, the suspects inside opened fire and 4 of the officers were shot. Another officer injured his knee during the raid, but was not shot. During the exchange, the two suspects were both shot and killed.
After the raid, Houston police chief Art Acevedo and the Texas governor issued statements decrying the "horrific attack" on police officers and "asked for prayers."
After the governor and the chief issued their statements of support for the officers and asked folks to keep them in their thoughts, Houston Police Officers’ Union President Joe Gamaldi went on the offensive, noting that "we've had enough!"
"We are sick and tired of dirt bags trying to take our lives when all we're trying to do is protect this community and our families," he said. "Enough is enough."
While it is entirely acceptable for an officer to be angry and voice their opinion about criminals who try to shoot them, Gamaldi then took it a step further and went after people who may just be critical of police. He then threatened that they will be "tracking" these people who are critical of cops.
“If you’re the ones that are out there spreading the rhetoric that police officers are the enemy, just know we’ve all got your number now, we’re going to be keeping track of all of y’all, and we’re going to make sure that we hold you accountable every time you stir the pot on our police officers. We’ve had enough, folks. We’re out there doing our jobs every day, putting our lives on the line for our families.”
Gamaldi is angry, and rightfully so. Four of his friends were shot and nearly died. But threatening to go after individuals who are critical of police is certainly not the answer and will undoubtedly lead to more suffering on both sides of the thin blue line.
Does Gamaldi think we shouldn't be critical of police when they shoot and kill innocent children like Jeremy Mardis? What about the cops right down the road in infamous Bexar County who shot and killed 6-year-old Kameron Prescott and faced no consequences? Should we not be able to criticize them?
The idea that all police officers are heroes is not accurate. Actions are what dictate heroism—not a career decision. Yes, hundreds of thousands of police officers put on a uniform every day and some of them may face danger. But simply going to work—to a job that is not even ranked in the top ten most dangerous jobs in the country—doesn't make you a hero.
Sacrifice, saving lives, selflessly risking your own life to protect others from harm, and standing up for what's right are what make people heroes—not uniforms, six-figure incomes and pensions.
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Attacking or monitoring people for being critical of police and government institutions is not the answer to curtailing anti-police sentiment. This will only serve to drive a wedge between the police and the policed.
Law enforcement in this country has been at a cross roads for some time. While some heroic officers are taking a stand and calling for an end to the war on drugs, others are hell bent on maintaining the revenue stream, job security, and budgets for militarization that this war brings them.
The overwhelming majority of violent police interactions stem from the enforcement of the war on drugs. This is a huge problem and countless experts in the field already have the solution. End the drug war. Sadly, however, except for a few departments across the country, most police will not even consider the notion.
The fact is that the drug war is dangerous, not only for the people being accused of having drugs by police, but as this case in Houston illustrates, it's incredibly dangerous for police officers too.
Despite police officers being killed at a historically low rate, as this incident shows us, enforcing a war on substances pushes the sale of these substances into the criminal realm which makes it dangerous for everyone.
We can look at the prohibition of alcohol and the subsequent mafia crime wave that ensued as a result as an example. The year 1930, at the peak of prohibition, happened to be the deadliest year for police in American history. 300 police officers were killed enforcing a war on booze, and innumerable poor people slaughtered as the state cracked down on drinkers.
This is not a solution.
We can also use the prohibition of alcohol and the subsequent mafia crime wave that ensued to highlight how the enforcement of substance bans literally creates crime.
Criminal gangs form to protect sales territory and supply lines. They then monopolize the control of the constant demand for drugs—that history shows will NEVER GO AWAY.
Their entire operation is dependent upon police arresting people for drugs as it creates a monopoly on distribution for those willing to break the law. However, the illegality of drug possession and use is what keeps the low-level users and dealers in and out of the court systems—feeding the prison-industrial complex while fostering the police state. It is no coincidence that the United States has some of the toughest drug war laws and the highest prison population in the world.
This revolving door of creating and processing criminals also fosters the phenomenon known as Recidivism. Recidivism is a fundamental concept of criminal justice that shows the tendency of those who are processed into the system and the likelihood of future criminal behavior.
The War on Drugs creates criminals every single minute of every single day. The system is set up in such a way that it fans the flames of violent crime by essentially building a factory that turns out violent criminals. And when cops respond to situations, their training teaches them to treat everyone like they are one of these violent criminals.
The system knows this too.
When drugs are legalized, gang violence drops — drastically. Not only does it have a huge effect on the localized gangs in America, but the legalization of drugs is crippling to the violent foreign drug cartels too. This is the reason Norway and other countries like Portugal have moved to decriminalize all drugs.
Until Americans educate themselves on the cause of this violence, uninformed and corrupt lawmakers will continue to focus on controlling the symptoms by silencing their critics and stoking more divide.
We will see more senseless killings and more innocent lives stripped of opportunity by getting entangled in the system. It is high time we #End the Drug War and retrain police to see the American public as a friend—and not an enemy. The barrel of a gun will never be a solution to the problem of addiction and police need to figure this out sooner than later.