After Reagan moved into the White House in 1981, Balko points out, the U.S. Justice Department stepped up efforts to kill pot fields by spraying them with herbicides.
Reagan "put far more emphasis on enforcement and far less on [patient] treatment, and, perhaps most radically of all, enlisted the military in the war on drugs."
Most Democratic leaders raised few, or no, questions. In 1982, Sens. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn., introduced a bill of their own that passed the Senate.
"The Humphrey bill gave Reagan everything he wanted," Balko writes.
The number of mistaken drug raids and deaths increased during the coming years.
Richard Elsass, 43, was sleeping in a trailer near a truck stop in Ripon, Calif., where he worked. During a predawn drug raid on Oct. 20, 1989, one member of a black-clad SWAT team used a flashlight to smash through a window in his trailer.
When he looked inside, a frightened Elsass shot and killed him. Other SWAT officers then immediately killed Elsass. They found no drugs in his trailer and no evidence linking him to any drug crime.
"The police conducted a violent, volatile drug raid on the home of an innocent man, killed him, and got one of their own killed in the process," Balko writes. "Raiding and killing innocent people is an acceptable outcome of drug policing."
Five years later, a jury awarded his family $175,000 in damages.
The Elsass death is one of many similar incidents Balko documents throughout "Rise of the Warrior Cop," including an 11-year-old boy accidentally shot while lying on the floor with other family members during a raid by a SWAT team that had no evidence the family had done anything wrong.
Walter and Rose Martin, a Brooklyn couple in their 80s, had their home "wrongly raided more then 50 times between 2002 and 2010." The New York City Police Department finally figured out their address had been used "as a dummy address to test the department's new computer system."
During the past 30 years, courts around the country frequently issued arrest warrants for alleged drug violations with little or no evidence that their targets were guilty.
Most warrants, Balko stresses, continue to "give police permission to mete out extraordinary violence on people still only suspected of nonviolent crimes."
The growth of SWAT teams was sparked "almost exclusively" by the War on Drugs.
"Today in America, SWAT teams violently smash into private homes more than 100 times per day," Balko writes. Many SWAT teams are trained by special forces units like the Navy Seals or Army Rangers.
What happened in the Roman Empire has some similarities to what is happening today.
"Even in ancient Rome, the public was acutely sensitive to the threat of militarized policing," Balko writes.
"As conquest and empire became central tenets of Roman society, the day-to-day lives of Romans became infused with militarism. Soldiers and generals began to be held in higher esteem than scholars and statesmen. ...
"About 1,800 years would pass before the world would see another metropolitan police force as centralized and organized as those that Augustus first established in Rome."
Yet most liberal and conservative political leaders support the continuing militarization of our police departments.
"It's rather remarkable that domestic police officers are driving tanks and armored personnel carriers on American streets, breaking into homes and killing dogs over pot," Balko concludes.
"And there's been barely any opposition or concern from anyone in Congress, any governor or any major of a sizable city. That, more than anything, is what needs to change."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.