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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How Las Vegas sees Prince George's County

(Posted 20 Aug 2008)

Another drug raid gone bad; Mayor of Maryland town, his dogs dead, still waiting for apology.
Las Vegas Review-Journal, 20 Aug 2008 (Editorial).
Cops in Prince George's County, Md., have a proud tradition to maintain. In May, a former county officer was sentenced to 45 years in prison for shooting two furniture delivery men at his home last year, one of them fatally. (He claims they attacked him.)

In June, a suspect jailed in the death of a local police officer was found strangled in his cell. Authorities have no idea how that could have happened.

It's unlikely Mayor Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Md., was thinking of his county's behaviorally challenged boys in beige when he got home from work three weeks back, saw a package addressed to his wife sitting on the front porch, and brought it inside, putting it on a table.

But he should have been.

The mayor went into the bedroom to change his clothes. He was wearing only his boxer shorts when cops with drawn guns kicked in the door and stormed in, screaming. They shot the couple's two Labrador retrievers to death and seized the unopened package.

Which contained about 30 pounds of marijuana.

Police now admit the couple appear to have been the innocent victims of a scheme by two men to transport millions of dollars worth of marijuana by having it delivered to about half a dozen unsuspecting recipients.

A furious Mayor Calvo said last week that he and his wife, Trinity Tomsic, are asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the raid.

"We were harmed by the very people who took an oath to protect us," says Mr. Calvo, part-time mayor of the middle-class Washington suburb of about 3,000 people, who works at a nonprofit foundation that runs boarding schools. His wife is a state finance officer.

Mr. Calvo insists the couple's two black Labradors were gentle creatures. He says the cops apparently killed them "for sport," gunning down one of them as it was running away. Neighbors say the dogs were so gentle they rarely even barked.

The mayor says he was handcuffed in his boxer shorts for about two hours along with his mother-in-law, and that officers didn't believe him when he told them he was the mayor.

Prince George's County police Chief Melvin High defends the way the raid was conducted, saying the dogs were killed because the officers felt "threatened."

Perhaps the officers would feel less "threatened" if they stopped breaking into people's houses and handcuffing them in their underwear on suspicion of possessing pot.

The Berwyn Heights police chief said county officers had no right to enter the home without knocking. Mayor Calvo says he's astonished that police have not only failed to apologize, but have also declined to clear the couple's names.

Does anyone else sense a lack of proportionality, here?

Is there anyone who still doubts this blank check for mayhem known as the "war on drugs" has gone too far?

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