Among defense attorneys, “narcotics officers” have a certain reputation: thuggishly violent goons who enjoy trashing suspects’ homes and bullying children. There’s no better example of why such perceptions exist than the WestNET task force in Washington state.
Well, it turns out that wasn’t an aberration, unfortunately. That’s how the WestNET goons got down on a regular basis, judging by the News Tribune‘s report.
For instance, when WestNET agents in full paramilitary gear raided the house of legal medical marijuana patient Douglas Wood, 50, who suffers from a painful nerve condition, they weren’t content just to brandish guns in his face and seize all the plants he was legally cultivating. They also shot a pepper ball at Wood’s 11-year-old dog, blowing out her eye, according to court records.
Ironically, busting down Wood’s door and shooting his dog was WestNET’s “response” to the very ill medical marijuana patient reporting his plants having been stolen. Less than three months later, Pierce County prosecutors dismissed the criminal case against Wood; he had medical authorization to use, possess and grow marijuana.
“There was a uniform feeling that this was a bunch of cowboys out of their league,” said Seattle attorney Mark Leemon, who took Wood’s case.
In another case, WestNET goons broke down a Belfair suspect’s front door and stormed in with guns drawn on the suspect, her six-year-old daughter and her 13-month-old grandson, according to court papers. The officers then broke open an Etch-a-Sketch toy — supposedly to “see if it had drugs” in it.
Thing is, while these morons were playing soldier with all their federally funded paramilitary gear, they were using such tactics on small-time cases, often harassing medical marijuana patients who were abiding by Washington state law.
Despite the fact that their official mission was to “deter, detect, disrupt and/or dismantle drug-trafficking organizations,” the task force often “drifted from its mission,” as the News Tribune too kindly put it, spending most of their time on low-level cases, arresting street junkies and twenty-dollar tweakers after lengthy and expensive “investigations.”
Helicopter flyovers and paramilitary raids produced minor arrests and failed prosecutions of medical marijuana patients — who had no previous criminal records — who were legally growing medicinal cannabis in their basements or closets.
Prosecutors often declined to take WestNET’s weak, sloppy cases to court, and even when they did, judges regularly sentenced defendants to zero days in jail. But you’d never know that by reading WestNET’s reports to state officials, in which the gung-ho officers claimed a “near-perfect success record.”
One of WestNET’s top officers, now-retired Bremerton cop Roy Alloway, is scheduled to be sentenced next month after pleading guilty in federal court
to tax fraud and gun dealing with no license.
Since WestNET is just one of many similar federally funded task forces around Washington — and the United States — it’s time to ask ourselves a question:
Do we really want these ass-clowns out going berserk on the public dime, using our tax money to play Army and terrorize sick people, when their track record is clearly one of thuggery and failure?