Police Raid Wrong Address, Harlem Woman Dies


This week, a Boston city councilor recommends drug legalization; an Ontario judge overrules Canada's pot possession laws, effectively decriminalizing pot in the province; a Harlem woman dies of a heart attack after police throw a flash grenade into her apartment during a drug raid on a mistaken address; and one of Scotland Yard's most senior officers calls for legalization of all drugs.

May 15 -- The Boston Herald reports: Boston city councilor Chuck Turner stunned his colleagues yesterday by suggesting that heroin, cocaine and other drugs be legalized and that America's war on drugs was harmed by the overthrow of the Taliban. Turner, of Roxbury, likened anti-drug laws to the failure of Prohibition while speaking at the weekly council meeting in response to another councilor's proposal for a hearing into the city's anti-drug strategy.

"We have spent billions on a war on drugs that is not working," Turner said. "Perhaps we need to end that war. I'm saying we need to look at it and maybe spend those billions on education and treatment and job training."

Turner claimed heroin in Boston neighborhoods has increased since American forces ended Taliban rule in Afghanistan in November 2001.

"The Taliban had a stated anti-drug policy, but the Northern Alliance has returned to growing poppies," Turner said. "So the ally that our government supports is now growing the plant that leads to heroin."

May 17 -- Canada's Ottawa Citizen reports: Possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana is no longer against the law in Ontario, a Windsor judge says in a ruling released yesterday that compounds the chaos over Canada's pot laws.

Superior Court Justice Steven Rogin's decision has "effectively erased the criminal prohibition on marijuana possession from the law books in Ontario," said Brian McAllister, the Windsor lawyer who challenged the law on behalf of a 17-year-old client.

Judge Rogin's decision is almost certainly to be followed by judges of Ontario's lower court, where nearly all marijuana possession cases are decided.

"This decision is also likely to have significant repercussions on the viability of marijuana prosecutions across the country," Mr. McAllister said.

May 17 -- New York Daily News reports: A Harlem woman died of a heart attack after police hurled a flash grenade into her apartment during a mistaken raid yesterday morning.

Heavily armed NYPD Emergency Service Unit cops smashed down the woman's door at 310 W. 143rd St., believing that guns and drugs were in the sixth-floor apartment, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

Instead, they found Alberta Spruill, 57, a beloved church member and longtime city employee, who was getting ready to go to work when the grenade went off about 6:10 a.m. -- creating a deafening boom and a blinding flash.

Cops handcuffed Spruill, who cried as cops began probing her tidy, two-bedroom apartment. A police captain quickly realized cops had hit the wrong location, Kelly said.

Officers immediately uncuffed Spruill and asked if she was hurt. She initially refused medical attention but told cops she had a heart condition.

At 6:32 a.m., Spruill felt chest pains and was rushed to Harlem Hospital. She went into cardiac arrest in the ambulance and died at the hospital about 8 a.m. -- less than two hours after her home was invaded.

May 18 -- UK's Daily Telegraph reports: One of Scotland Yard's most senior officers has called for hard drugs -- including crack cocaine and heroin -- to be decriminalised, saying that police cannot win the war against dealers.

Chief Supt Anthony Wills, the borough commander of Hammersmith and Fulham in London, said that as the state could not control the criminal trade in drugs, it should take it over instead.

"I would have no problems with decriminalising drugs full stop," said Mr. Wills. "There have to be very stringent measures over the production and supply of drugs and we have got to remove the drug market from criminals. I do not want people to take drugs but if they are going to, I want them to take them safely, with a degree of purity and in a controlled way."

Mr. Wills, who heads more than 2,000 officers, said that draconian anti-drugs measures had always failed. "There are some places where people are beheaded if they sell drugs but even this does not stop the trade."

Mr. Wills, however, said that he too did not believe police should bother upholding laws on cannabis. "I am very liberal in relation to possession of drugs," he said. "Policing cannabis is a waste of our time as I do not feel the effects of cannabis are any worse than over-consumption of alcohol."

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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