Terror ensued in North Carolina recently when a violent task force busted into a family home illegally on a search for marijuana. The officers say there was a weed smell they could detect from outside. Vera McGriff reported that an officer came to her door, demanding to search her house. She would not allow the officer inside because he wouldn’t present a search warrant. The officer at this point put his foot in the door and in her words “4 of them bum rushed me.”
Terrorizing Children Over the Smell of Weed
When officers realized that the family started filming the invasion, chaos broke out in the home. McGriff wrote on Facebook, “After being falsely accused of using and harboring marijuana, we were subject to the physical assault and terrorizing actions from a gang of police officers that included assaults with batons, an officer’s gun, and over 4 hours of handcuffed detainment. The terror, by these officers, did not stop when my 11-year-old son, recently home from the hospital, began to vomit and seize. Nor did they stop when my 10-year-old daughter screamed and called out to her mommy in fear.”
Officer Statements Conflicted by Video
The officers entered the home at 10:30PM and detained the family until they received their search warrant at 12:50AM. Durham police say that 2 of their officers were hit in the incident with 1 reporting that he was hit on the shoulder. There is no evidence of the assault in any of the viral video footage of the illegal raid. Police charged Raynell Hall and Jahmon Cedeno with assault on a government officer, a tactic that is sometimes used by police to prevent civil liability charges. Khadir Cherry was charged with marijuana possession with intent to sell and resisting arrest. Vera McGriff was charged with maintaining a dwelling and resisting an officer.
Agents of H.E.A.T.
Nia Wilson, executive director of community non-profit, Spirit House, believes that these searches, which happen often, are being conducted in order to bully and scare black and brown community members. With video footage of the event going viral, the problem can now be discussed.
This violent, illegal search was conducted by a Durham task force known as HEAT (High Enforcement Abatement Team), who are employed to target criminal “hot spots”. The task force is funded by tax payers which begs the question: Should tax payers be paying to have their homes invaded and their families terrorized? To pay for a task force who are willing to forcibly enter homes and violently attack residents over an alleged weed smell is a disturbing notion.
Since marijuana has been legally medicinal in half the country, legalized for personal use in many states with several more voting on it this November, and decriminalized for recreational use in several cities across the country, this kind of violence towards a family seems very disproportionate. At this point in time the officers within the HEAT task force seem incapable of level headed thinking. Durham police Chief Larry Smith recently commissioned a study into the task force which revealed that HEAT officers stop black drivers on the road far out of proportion to the number of white drivers stopped. Residents of Durham are not surprised by the results, stating that this is common knowledge.
Allegations of Racism
The issue may go deeper than the task force alone. The racism apparent in Durham seems to exist at epidemic proportions. At the end of 2015, a Self-Help Credit Union reported that 80 percent of misdemeanor marijuana infractions are charged to African Americans with just a slim number of those going to white individuals. According to the report, 15 percent of Durham’s population are African Americans who are aged 25 and under, yet this demographic makes up 46 percent of all misdemeanor marijuana charges. This is an impossible statistic to look at without questioning: what exactly is going on in Durham?
Durham Councilman Charlie Reece, said he intends to look into HEAT. He has stated that he believes this situation has forced Durham to discuss whether the task force is in the best interest of the city. Residents who should feel protected by the police force they pay for will be able to discuss whether a potential weed smell is enough to invite violence from officers in their homes and whether HEAT is really a task force worth keeping in operation.