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I recently purchased a home and am thinking about doing more with the foliage up front. Shrubs, flowers, the usual. But thanks to the misfortune of landscape contractor Blair Davis, I can assure readers there is one seed I won’t be sowing: the dreaded hibiscus.
Last Tuesday, Davis heard a knock on the door. He went to answer, but, as the July 29 Houston Chronicle reports, “he hadn’t even gotten his hand on the doorknob when it flew open and he was looking at the barrel of a pistol.”
And hello to you, too, neighbor!
The barrel and nearly a dozen others like it – drawn and ready for action – belonged to the more than 10 members of the Harris County [Texas] Organized Crime and Narcotics Task Force that quickly stormed Davis’ home. Once inside, the team shouted Davis down to the floor, where, amid the testosterone-juiced flurry of official drug-raid activity, he was able to ponder the reason for his predicament.
To be sure, it was puzzling: Davis wasn’t a member of organized crime. Neither was he a distributor, seller or grower of narcotics. He was a gardener, and. … That was it! Out front, Davis had planted several ornamental Texas Star hibiscus plants. Baffled no more.
The plant’s leaves admittedly look a little “pottish.” But so do the leaves of a Japanese maple. And even someone with cataracts the size of silver dollars should have been tipped by the hibiscus’ white flowers. Pot doesn’t have lush, beautiful blooms.
Smack me, but I would think that folks charged with shoving gun barrels in suspects’ faces for the crime of cultivating verboten verdancy would at least know well enough how to properly identify the plant. What if Davis had been in the house cleaning a gun when the raid commenced? Imagine the headline: “Man killed by police in mistaken drug raid: Landscape contractor brandished gun, shot 6 times for hibiscus.”
In 2001, I told of a similar raid, one in which a slew of drug cops descended on a gardener showing off his prize tomatoes to a visitor. From the air, the police said, tomatoes look like pot.
Ahem, er, uh, sure … whatever you say. And those big red globular fruit? Christmas ornaments? Of course they are.
Did any of the knuckleheads in Davis’ raid even pause to consider the fact that the plants were growing out front? Hardly a place to grow illicit weeds. But that didn’t slow anyone down, which is of little surprise considering some of the raid’s further antics.
“Evidently, some well-meaning but horticulturally challenged citizen turned Davis in,” the Chronicle elaborates. “Davis said the team of narcotics officers combed his house for about an hour, at one point discussing whether red and gold bamboo growing in his window might be marijuana. They also asked what he did with the watermelons and cantaloupes growing in his back yard.”
No joke. “What would I do with them?” Davis wondered, no doubt stupefied.
These cops endanger a guy’s life and property, and not only do they not know how to differentiate between pot, hibiscus and bamboo, they don’t even know what to do with a melon!
Obviously they didn’t use theirs. Couldn’t they have asked about the hibiscus before raiding the home? They had nothing to go on other the nosey neighbor’s tip, so they had no evidence Davis was dangerous. What could a little investigation have hurt? The whole think-before-you-act lesson apparently never germinated with these guys.
Cops pulled the same sort of stunt in the infamous tomato caper: They ID’d the “pot” from the air, and even though they admitted visibility wasn’t great, they did no on-the-ground check to verify the actual presence of pot. They just stormed in, guns drawn, ready to go to town on a guy for his marinara makings.
These two stories show something I detail at length in my book, “Bad Trip: How the War Against Drugs is Destroying America.” As the police become more amped and bellicose about drug raids – more militarized in training planning, equipping and execution – they tend to fail in one of the fundamentals of policing: investigation. Ergo, instead of adequately finding out the facts before taking action, the drug war has created an environment where it is permissible to take action – violent action – to find out the facts.
Turning traditional, liberty-protecting policing on its head, in too many cases the drug war has essentially replaced investigation with heavily-armed confrontation.
That makes the nation a more dangerous place for everyone, not just gardeners.
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