Friday, 8 May 2009

“Routine”? [Update 4]

Another victim of the War on Drugs overnight: Senior Constable Len Snee, shot and killed in Napier "during a routine drug bust."  His name may be added to that of Sergeant Don Wilkinson, shot and killed in Hain Avenue, Mangere East, in September last year, as two more police victims of the failed War on Drugs in just the last twelve months.

Both were shot and killed in "routine drugs busts" -- the latest described by police themselves as "a very mundane low level cannabis operation."  The mother of Snee's murderer seems more clear eyed about the whole horrendous situation than all the policeman now impotently camped outside her son’s house, "What are they trying to protect?" asked Anna Molenaar. "A silly marijuana plant? What a thing to someone's been shot and someone's in hospital. Just can't comprehend it really, just can't comprehend it."

It's hard to comprehend, isn't it, all too hard, that when you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana -- less harmful, according to the British medical journal Lancet than both alcohol and tobacco -- then what you're doing is ensuring is more harm than you can imagine, and more deaths like these.

When you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana, you don't make it disappear, you simply put the sale of the drug in the hands of criminals -- and if criminals don't care what your War-on-Drugs laws say, then they sure as hell won't care what your gun laws say either.  When you criminalise drugs, then "routine" drugs busts become life and death situations.

That's hardly "harm minimisation," is it.

And there's something even more disgraceful, if that’s possible, and that’s the way police are handling this situation.

While the gunman is holed up inside, a dead or dying policeman is lying outside, and has done for nearly twenty-four hours.  Speaking late last night,  his colleagues were unable even to confirm whether Senior Constable Len Snee was alive or dead!   Look, the gunman may have explosives but he has no one else in the house with him, yet while he was and still is being treated with kid gloves, a policeman has been allowed to die, and a city itself held hostage.

Is there some reason overwhelming force can’t be used on a man who has already foregone his right to life?  Is there any reason any other life at all should be put at risk in extracting the murderer from his foxhole.  Is there some reason tear gas, grenades, fire, light armoured vehicles, bazookas, mortars or heavy artillery – or even just plain good tactical policing – can’t be used against someone who they now have no reason to treat with anything else but disdain?  Yes, he might blow himself and his house up, and he might even cause wider damage further afield, but why the hell didn’t they evacuate the nearby houses, rescue their colleague, and clear the situation and the gunman up at least a dozen hours ago!

When South Auckland police spent forty-eight minutes "securing the scene" while bottle store owner Navtej Singh lay bleeding to death on his shop floor last year, it looked like bald incompetence.   Now, it’s beginning to look like it’s standard police “strategy.”

It’s as dumb as the War on Drugs itself.

I’m almost speechless.

UPDATE:  MikeE isn’t speechless:

Am I the only one who sees something a little bit like Ruby Ridge with this police siege?
Man is minding his own business, growing pot in his property.
Police come, try to arrest him for victimless crime.
He defends himself (using a vastly inappropriate level of force) taking out one cop, injuring three others.
Scene escalates due to police procedural incompetence, and bad drug laws.

UPDATE 2: I can’t resist posting this story from last year; that New Zealand's "hopelessly out of date and irrelevant" drug laws need a shake-up to fight a changing narcotics landscape, delegates to two “high-powered conferences” told the Herald.

   At the Beyond 2008 Regional Consultation for Australasia, delegates from community organisations meet to discuss alternative answers to the drug problem.
    The delegates will push for a move away from the predominantly United States-led "War on Drugs", to a more treatment-based approach. . .

Clearly, they’re even more out of dates than they were last year.

UPDATE 3The usually sane MacDoctor thinks the argument that the War on Drugs causes violence is absurd. In fact, worse then absurd, it’s “the most pathetic and meaningless argument I have ever heard.” See:

But if you truly want absurdity, then look no further than Peter Cresswell’s argument that this all could have been avoided by legalising cannabis. Superficially, this is true. But it has to be the most pathetic and meaningless argument I have ever heard.

So it’s true “superficially” that when you criminalise something as harmless as marijuana you ensure more harm than would be due to the substance alone – that when you criminalise drugs, then "routine" drugs busts become life and death situations for police -  but it’s otherwise pathetic and meaningless to point that out.  Not quite sure how you untangle that.

Might I suggest that the good MacDoctor, who as a doctor is normally interested in evidence, should confront the reality of the War on Drugs declared by Richard Nixon thirty-eight years ago and which (like the American War on Alcohol in the twenties) has led not to the diminution of any of the banned substances but instead to a vast expansion of their supply, and not to peace and harmony but to violence, killing and death – of both lawmen and outlaws.  As The Economist noted recently in a piece calling for a reconsideration of the whole War on Drugs,

the United States spends $40 billion and arrests 1.5 million people a year in an attempt to reduce illegal drug consumption. Keeping one prisoner in jail costs approximately $30,000 a year, and about half of the people in jail today are there because of drug offenses.
    U.S. drug policies are making criminal gangs rich beyond belief and helping to destabilize countries around the world. It is now almost suicidal to be a police officer in Mexico, where officers are assassinated with impunity by drug lords -- violence that is spilling into the United States. Afghanistan's warlords -- as well as the Taliban, which has moved into parts of Pakistan -- support their troops with profits from opium sales.
    In the United States, organized crime is responsible for most of the drug trade. These are the same kinds of gangs that made it rich bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition in the early 20th century. It should be clear by now that outlawing something only makes people want it more. . .
    There are a lot of facts, myths and emotions on both sides of the issue, but that doesn't mean we should ignore it. And just because we have criminalized it for 50 years, does not mean that we have to continue doing so for the next 50 years.

Think about it.  If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re more than likely to keep getting what you’ve always got before.  [NB: You can read some of The Economist’s account online, starting with ‘How to stop the drug wars.’)

UPDATE 4: Will de Cleene asks a few relevant questions still unanswered by an MSM big on emoting and short on reporting the facts:

No-one in the MSM is asking, so I will.

  • How many cannabis plants did the cops find in Jan Molenaar's house when they broke in?
  • How much would they be worth on the market?
  • How much harm was prevented by their interception, BERL?

[Hat tip Brad Taylor]


  1. PC,
    The American war on drugs kills many people every year - including many innocent civilians - the majority in South America. They are killed due to violence between the police and drug gangs and by violence perpetrated by para-military groups on civilian populations. These groups are funded - in most part - from profits made from drug sales, profits made possible by the illegality of drugs themselves.

    Compare the small number of deaths resulting from drug use with the large number of deaths resulting from the fact that drugs are illegal (and Senior Constable Len Snee is now another name to add to that sad list) and any person who advocates drug prohibition based on the fact that it reduces harm, should understand that their views achieve the opposite of what they profess to want.

    Senior Constable Len Snee's murderer is a lowlife - he deserves and receives no sympathy from me. However, advocates of drug prohibition should recognise that their policy has contributed to another death and created incalculable sadness for his family.

    This was so unnecessary.


  2. PC Gone mad.

    The rights of the criminal are far more important than those of the dead policeman's family. A body lies decomposing on the street and nothing other than a 'safe perimeter' is done about it.

    Time for a true SWAT team in New Zealand to deal with these scum, rather than an Armed Offender Squad that doesn't even shoot back when he shoots at them in the middle of the night!

  3. Broad has to go. He goes on TV telling us that he 'feels numb' while he has 30 armed men on the ground who cannot retrieve a fallen comrade who's been lying there coming up 24hrs. I say 'cannot', but 'not allowed' is more likely the case.

    Any talk of what a great guy this officer was is totally meaningless coming from these tossers - he's been abandoned by his own service, that clearly he has served well.

    Appalling beyond words.

    - Sam P

  4. This is not about drugs, and that you try to make it so is another indication of why you just don't get it, and why you can only get 1000 votes in an electorate of 2 million.

    This is about police processes and mismanagement.

  5. PC, my comment is a little bit out of context there.

    My point was more that this may or may not have happened if NZ's drug laws were different, we don't know enough about the situation to comment yet.

    What we do know so far is:

    a) The Gunman seems to be a bit of a nut/loner, similar to the aromoana shooter
    b) His firearms were illegally owned
    c) This was a result of a police "raid" on his private property for what was a victimless crime.

    I don't think the "raid" was a appropriate for somethign as harmless as cannabis, and could have potentially triggered the situation, similar to the Federal raids in Ruby Ridge etc in the USA.

    But without knowing the specifics, its hard to comment.

    It does not however justify the killing of a policeman, and shooting of innocent bystanders.

    There is however something seriously wrong with police proceedure, if we require the AOS, STG and the Army to subdue one armed offender. This whole thing should have been over before the end of last night.

    They know where the offender is, they have it secured, and they have armed officers on site.

    It doesn't take a genius to suggest a grenade launcher, a mixture of flashbangs and tear gas, with armed personell positioned around the area, taking out the offender as they are flushed out of the building.

    A very sad situation indeed.

  6. While agreeing with Libertarian principles in general I have to agree with Redbaiter on this one.

    Nothing justifies the murder of a fellow human however the killing of those that do murder must be considered a priority if we are to prevent this nonsense.

    There is a difference between murder and the killing of those that murder, but that is not a debate for today.

  7. Is there some reason overwhelming force can’t be used on a man who has already foregone his right to life?I'm sorry, but how exactly has he "forgone his right to life"? All I know about the situation is that the police went there with the intention of arresting him for possessing a plant. From that information, he has every right to protect himself, and if that requires shooting the police, then so be it. Maybe there's more to it that don't know about, but from what I know, it's the police who had forgone their right to life in this situation; the "gunman" is, AFAIK, entirely within his rights and were I a juror on his case, he'd walk.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Redbaiter - it IS about drugs. Drug prohibition is the reason the police raided this guy's house in the first place.

    However, he still needs to be given a chance to surrender and be made accountable for his actions.

  10. Redbaiter is a drone. He just doesn't get it at all. Let's make it easy for the silly one.

    Hey Red ya weenie. Try to think. Try very hard. Make an honest attempt. Get your mummy to put your finger on the letters as you sound them words out one by one. Then count to ten. Then try to think. Try to understand what you are being asked.

    Why were the Police raiding this guy's house?

    Was it because he had some guns?

    Was it because he was not a gentleman?

    Was it because he had bad taste in clothing?

    Was it because he has a silly name?

    Was it because he wasn't wearing a hat?

    Was it because he had some overdue library books?

    Or was it because he was alleged to be in possession of some examples of plant that all New Zealanders (including you) are forbidden from owning?

    Might it be that this affair began with an attempted drugs bust?

    Now try to be honest.

    Isn't it correct that the whole show kicked off with an attempt to gain access to this man's residence because he was thought to be in possession of the forbidden?

    In that case, the matter IS about drugs.

    Shithead, you are so stupid. Best if you stopped trespassing here fool.


  11. You need a big reality check Greg.

    Shooting four people and firing dozens more rounds at others is hardly proportionate self defence against an unjust law with a minor penalty.

    So you want the Police to leave the area now and the public to head back home and hope they don't get shot from his extended self defence session?

  12. I've posted on this bloody, disgraceful fiasco. They've learned nothing since the balls-up that was the Aramoana massacre, have they?
    Two experts could have ended this running tragic joke in an hour or less.

  13. And if the police aren't prepared to defy the health and safety zealots--and the lawyers--to rescue on of their own how the hell are they supposed to protect the rest of us?

  14. My heart goes out to the family of the dead policeman. Anything that can be done to avoid this happening again should be done forthwith.

    I can see only two possible reasons that this siege continues - incompetence or possible third party in the residence.

  15. Shooting four people and firing dozens more rounds at others is hardly proportionate self defence against an unjust law with a minor penalty.I don't know anything about the "four people" and the "others"...are you talking about the attackers (police) or innocent bystanders? Just what is "proportionate self defence" when it comes to state action? Not only do the police have overwhelming numbers, etc., on their side, but most everyone else (probably in the entire world, not just Napier) support them as well -- see PC, ostensible libertarian(!), saying the poor sod had "forgone his right to life". Proportionality is utterly and completely impossible. (I don't think starting a shootout was a good idea, though)

  16. I don't see how this can be comparied to Ruby Ridge. The officers weren't even armed when they went in.

    This very sad situation would have likly been avoided if one or more of the following had been in place before hand.

    -Legalize weed

    -Arm the police

    -Have a more proactive mental health system that weeds out nut jobs like this.

    None of these things were in the control of the 4 people who were shot.

    Greg you are a dick head I hope the families of the victims of this never come across the shit your've posted

  17. Greg: "From that information, he has every right to protect himself, and if that requires shooting the police, then so be it. "

    Morally disgusting, that is. You're no libertarian. You're someone who (apparently) thinks it would be alright to chop a person's head off if you knew they were going to steal ten dollars from you. Firstly what you're advocating is really akin to violent revolution, and secondly your comments about proportionality are completely misguided. A proportional response is not one that is proportional to the other person's ability to carry our their intentions. It is a response that is proportional to what the other party is threatening to do. Are you really implying that the officer who knocked on this man's door was there to kill him?

  18. Craig

    You asked Greg: "So you want the Police to leave the area now and the public to head back home and hope they don't get shot from his extended self defence session?"

    Where did you get that line of imbecility from? Criag didn't write or imply that. Try reading what he actually wrote. Direct your attention to what he wrote and the points he raised- not what you wished he'd raised (or what you imagine he wrote).


    Ben M

    Your wrote a load of unsupported emotional froth. If you don't agree with Craig's arguments then you'd do well to actually address them and refute them. Appeals to emotion don't cut it.

    Not good enough.



    Do you have experience in dealing with an armed siege? Have you commanded Police action in such circumstance as this? Please do tell. Otherwise you're best to shut the fuck up about it. You'd be talking well outside your areas of expertise, competance or knowledge. Doing that'd be a bit rich. Best not to be be accusing the Police of incompetance in dealing with a situation you lack competance in yourself.

    Try this instead. Read a good US Police manual on the subject. From a cursory reading it would appear that if the armed man is contained, then the approach is to surround him and wait it out. Time is on the side of the people laying the siege- in this instance it is with the Police. The armed man will fatigue, get cold, become hungry, become thirsty,... He'll get less capable as time wears on. There is little risk to the Police in leaving him to a sustained decline in capability. He becomes less capable. they remain rested and ready- strong.

    BTW have you ever read Sun Tsu?



    Criag's view is indeed from the Libertarian school, although perhaps not one you'd share.

    It appears that Criag would argue that the dead Policeman is an agent of the state and hence part of the organisation that claims ultimate authority to kill those who disobey it (which is the sanction about to be taken right now- unless, of course, the armed man suicides or surrenders). An armed response can be interpreted as proportionate within that context.

    It's interesting that this should come up, as many Libertarians and Objectivists are want to saying that, ultimatly, the state does things like collect tax by relying on the threat of force of the gun.

    Force begets force etc.

    Regarding revolution. Is that something you find morally objectionable?

    What about drug use?

    Just interested.


    For the record, I suspect this guy was not thinking straight. Perhaps he was not in a fit state of mind to begin with. Then again, I do not know him so that's conjecture.

    When the Police came over he'd have been best advised to have been co-operative and civil with them. He could have argued his case publically and in the Court, although it's likely he'd have lost and been convicted.

    Of course, the best thing would have been not to be dealing with drugs in the first place.

    If the Police can get him out alive, that would demonstrate a huge level of professionalism and dedication to keeping a level of civil decency many of you blood lusters can't match, let alone approach. If it can't be done, they have made an honest patient effort in the face of much provocation. If the Police succeed in getting him out alive, it will be a blow to all the blood lusting nobodies worshipping at the altar of violence as entertainment.

    What is it with so many of you? Do you get some sort of emotional or sexual release out of killings and maimings so that you want to see or hear of yet more? Little good comes of such destruction.


  19. LGM,

    If Greg (not Criag) thinks that Jan has committed nothing more than a justified act of self defence, the logically shouldn't the Police leave him to it?

    Glenn is spot on. Anyone who thinks killing one and attempting to kill many more is reasonable self defence against a drug search warrant neads their head read.

  20. There has been a death. Please show me how we defer to 'competance' (sic) in this situation.

    Armed siege, no. Armed confrontation, yes. Soweto and Angola. & I am still fucking alive.

    This man is in his own home and, as we can see, well resourced.

    As a matter of fact, yes, I have and have read two different versions of SunTzu's seminal work, the original, and a sappy 'for executives'.
    Were they expert practitioners of the Chinaman's art, this situation would not have arisen.

    I dont believe there is any bloodlust in this forum. On the contrary, we are trying to make sense of this tragedy and avoid it happening again.

  21. "Soweto and Angola. & I am still fucking alive."
    Caprivi Strip, around '72?

  22. Without getting into the debate on the uselessness and stupidity of drugs laws, I believe that a bigger issue came into play and caused this tragedy.
    An issue which needs debating now because we never debate it at other times.

    NZers rarely stand on principle nowadays, we appear unwilling to debate much that doesn't effect our hip pocket - unless a sensationalist media frenzy has been kicked up. Then we all talk at once for a couple of days before moving on to the 'next big thing'.

    Since that mob of a**holes user paid and privatised everything bar the parliamentary kitchen sink back in the 1980's, there was a major relaxation of regulations around commerce and corporate entities, but no complementary relaxation of personal freedoms. This obvious dichotomy increased frustration within the citizenry.

    The reason is pretty simple.
    One can argue against the concept of absolute ownership in a welfare state, an interventionist society where the state is deemed 'protector of all' and where the notion of going into someone else's home to 'secure the public good' does have a certain flow of logic to it.

    But in a state which claims to celebrate individualism, the notion of any old copper being able to force his/her way into a citizen's home merely on the strength of a piece of paper signed by a judge, does not have an arguable logical or moral underpinning.
    Certainly not for the inadequate reason of checking to see if the owner of the private property is in possession of a plant that if it is harmful, only harms those who choose to be so harmed.

    Back in the welfare state days there were several instances of juries convicting citizens who assaulted burglars they caught in their homes. I remember a case in the 1970's when a pharmacist got in major trouble for shooting at a bloke he disturbed burgling his pharmacy.
    As we have seen recently, nowadays juries are more tolerant of those who take the law into their own hands when confronted by a criminal on their property. This is a definite indication that societal attitudes about one's home being one's castle have changed, yet the law does not reflect those changes.

    Continual self interested hammering on by the media, politicians and law enforcement, that violent crime is on the rise has caused many citizens to relish the illusion of safety and separation from that violent world they feel once they are in their own home.
    The drug search laws, which in certain circumstances allow police to forcibly enter a house and search it without even getting a warrant from a judge beforehand, are based on laws dating back to the 1960's welfare state days.

    The world has changed (for the worse IMHO but that is irrelevant here) yet police and politicians seem unwilling to recognise it.

    I am not condoning this bloke's actions, they were way over the top, but if police are going to continue to barge into people's houses whilst enforcing minor infractions of the law, without acknowledging that we have all become much more jealous of our privacy, more aware of our property rights, then these tragedies will continue.

    People will get very upset and a percentage of them for whatever reason, will be completely over the top in their reaction to this unwarranted (in the ethical not the legal sense) intrusion into their homes.

    The undoubted knee-jerk reaction to this tragedy from cops and pols alike will be to do the opposite, to kit up the coppers in more bullet-proof rigs, to use battering rams at sparrow fart - when occupants are asleep, to have the police dressed up as some sort of dystopian para-military police state's enforcers and to generally crank up the level of force and concomitant violence.

    NZers should not accept this. The best solution for everyone would be for police to be only able to forcibly enter private property if they know this is the only way to diminish or ameliorate a known risk to the public at large.

    When such circumstances do arise they should never be treated as some casual doddle of a job, but as a serious matter - that society has decided to usurp the property rights of a citizen therefore nothing should be taken for granted.

  23. "When such circumstances do arise they should never be treated as some casual doddle of a job, but as a serious matter - that society has decided to usurp the property rights of a citizen therefore nothing should be taken for granted."

    Yes! Yes indeed.

  24. Ure - it is a privilege to have wordsmiths so succinctly describe the situation accurately. This can only come from a full comprehension of the topic, & I do hope to hear a lot more from you!

    KG - hell no, I was 6 in 72! Hailed from 7South African Infantry unit:
    This guy arrived as I left.

  25. Aaah..thanks Shane. That's a little after my time. ;-)

  26. Craig

    Perhaps so, perhaps not. It depends on the context. Once the violence had started the problem became about whether the guy was a threat to other people in the vicinity. Obviously he was (there were dozens of bullet holes found in the surrounding houses). Nevetheless Greg did not write that he wanted "the Police to leave the area now and the public to head back home and hope they don't get shot from his extended self defence session". That was frothy bullshit.

    Glenn's statement regarding "you're no Libertarian" etc. is incorrect. There is more than one school of Libertarian thought regarding matters such as this. He continued his contribution with a rather crude ad hominem and wrecked his own argument. Pity.


  27. Shane

    I asked, "Do you have experience in dealing with an armed siege? Have you commanded Police action in such circumstance as this?"

    Be direct and honest. The answer you should have provided is exactly this, "No."

    Your original comment, "I can see only two possible reasons that this siege continues - incompetence or possible third party in the residence" was out of line and based on a shocking ignorance. You did not have the experience or the knowledge of fact to make such a statement.

    As to how the Police handled the situation once it got started- it appears to be a textbook and professional job they did there. Looks like they knew what they were doing. Next time don't be so eager to excoriate them.



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