Raid shows standards for drug searches have slipped Home raid shows standards in drug searches have slipped End doesn't justify means in drug war

November 03, 1999|By GREGORY KANE

ON OCT. 3, Gloria Brown, Barbara Simms and Daryl Easter expressed their outrage at a police drug raid on their Northwest Baltimore home. This Sunday, undercover narcotics officers from the Maryland State Police Westminster barracks told their side.

Now the question for Sun readers is this: Was that drug raid of Sept. 9 justified to gain a victory in the war on drugs, or were Brown, her boyfriend, sister and nephew Daryl Brown casualties of that war in which their privacy was invaded?

Gloria Brown said she was terrified when police raided her home and forced Easter and her nephew to sit handcuffed while their house was searched for drugs, which weren't found. Her terror turned to anger. Anger at the police and the Carroll County District Court judge who signed the search warrant.

"That judge should not have signed that warrant," Brown said last week. She read the application and affidavit of state police undercover narcotics Cpl. Mike Smith and said she saw not one shred of evidence that justified the drug raid on her home.

"That was unjustifiable in how they came into this house and treated us like we were drug kingpins and queenpins," Brown continued. "They had no evidence."

The troopers -- Smith and his co-workers Sgt. Mike College and Cpl. John Campbell -- felt they had a wealth of evidence.

Campbell, undercover, bought drugs from a man who used the corporal's cell phone to call a supplier the dealer referred to as "Daryl." Campbell recovered the number from the phone's memory. It was listed as Gloria Brown's. A confidential informant told the troopers that a drug dealer in Westminster's Sullivan Apartments drove a dark Dodge Neon. Brown's nephew, Daryl Brown, drives a 1998 dark purple Dodge Neon. Another informant troopers said was part of the drug ring identified Daryl Brown as a dealer with the street name of "Keon."

The troopers also said that their investigation has broken the drug ring. About 40 people have been arrested. The open-air drug market in the Sullivan Apartments has been crippled so badly that parents can let their children play outdoors again.

"They've seen a significant decrease since this operation," College said of residents at the Sullivan Apartments. The demand for crack is there, College added, but the crack isn't. There are no dealers or suppliers left to meet the demand.

We should compliment these officers for achieving this rare victory in the drug war. Their undercover investigation broke a drug ring that had been operating in Westminster for, by Smith's estimation, at least five years. College, Smith and Campbell displayed uncommon courage by going undercover and exposing some dangerous criminals.

And that's one of the things that's wrong with our war on drugs.

Why should a Mike College, a Mike Smith or a John Campbell have to expose themselves to such danger? To gain a minor victory in a drug war that we are not winning and is unwinnable? Their drug operation stopped the flow of crack into the Sullivan Apartments. But it's the demand -- this idea among alarming numbers of idiotic Americans who feel they have to get high -- that assures more dealers will quickly fill the void to supply drugs for those who want it.

"When these guys drove up," College said of those arrested in the Sullivan Apartments operation, "the people came in droves."

Assuming Daryl Brown is the drug dealer Carroll County cops think that he is (and that's only for the sake of argument: Daryl Brown has no criminal record and hasn't been charged with a crime in connection with the undercover operation), nailing him wouldn't have stopped the demand. And the drug raid police made on his aunt's home shows what else is wrong with the war on drugs: Increasingly, the innocent are being snared in its clutches.

Carroll County cops suspecting Daryl Brown of alleged drug dealing in no way justifies his aunt being dragged into her house and temporarily detained during a drug raid. It in no way justifies Barbara Simms, Daryl Brown's mother -- his mother, for heaven's sake! -- being rousted from her slumber by having a gun stuck in her face while two strangers handcuff her with her nightshirt hiked above her waist.

Nothing in Smith's application and affidavit for the search and seizure warrant indicated that illegal activity was going on in Gloria Brown's home. But as the war on drugs escalates, our standards on what constitutes probable cause for invading a home seem to be deteriorating in inverse proportion.

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