An "important message" produced by the Lake County Florida Sheriff's Office Office is getting national attention, with critics saying it exemplifies the failure of the war on Drugs and the militarization of police departments.
The video depicts the Lake Country Sheriff flanked by four policemen decked out in SWAT-style gear—from bulletproof vests, to ski masks obscuring their face. The sheriff then delivers a threatening message to drug dealers in the county—complete with a dark and brooding musical score.
"To the dealers, I say: Enjoy looking over your shoulder wondering if today's the day we come for you. Enjoy trying to sleep tonight, wondering if tonight's the night our SWAT team blows your front door off the hinges...We are coming for you. Run."
The sheriff also promised to drop a murder charge on any dealer whose crimes could be linked to an overdose.
Twitter users were quick to note that the video eerily resembles the videos released by militant groups.
Critics noted the video's glorification of a police state.
Writing for Gizmodo, Matt Novak writes, "Don’t see anything terrifying? Congratulations! You’re already living in a dystopian nightmare and have slowly become acclimated to the new normal of American civil society!"
And the comparisons continued on Twitter.
Ok, so police is ski masks vowing to kick down doors looks bad. But maybe it'll work?
The problem with policing methods like these is two-fold. Firstly, the aggressive policing tactics tend to fall more heavily on minority Americans. For example, according to the ACLU, while blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates, black Americans are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for possession, indicating that black Americans are more heavily policed. Indeed, a former aide to President Richard Nixon revealed last year that the War on Drugs was originally conceived as a political tool for fighting "blacks and hippies." Given the astonishing rate of mass incarceration in America, some folks have likened the War on Drugs to a new method of enacting segregation and slavery.
Secondly, these tactics don't seem to work.
Despite the expanding militarization of our police, and our ever-increasing prison population, drugs are as available as ever in the United States. In fact, according to the New York Times, a gram of cocaine is 74 percent cheaper now than it was in the 1980s. Enforced policing also overlooks that many Americans first get hooked on opioids through totally legal prescriptions. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in 2014, "nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin"
As Tim Elfrink wrote in the Miami New Times: "Busting down doors and arresting small-time pushers of illegally obtained Oxy or heroin might make for a good news release for cops like Grinnell, but experts mostly agree it won't solve the crisis."