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Goons With Guns, Sheriff Edition

| April 13, 2017

Peyton Grinnell playing a sheriff on TV. See the video below.

Peyton Grinnell playing a sheriff on TV. See the video below.

In the very same week, a goon posing as a cop bloodied a passenger out of his airline seat, and a cop posing as a goon released an amateur video threatening much worse on drug pushers. It’s not a coincidence.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive We’re a nation enamored with force. It’s our manifest destiny. We have periods of calm, or at least periods when conflict-resolution is prized more than blowing stuff up. But those periods are considered sissy, and they make for terrible TV. We’re witnessing a resurgence in authoritarianism, applauded and glorified from on high.

You expect it from the nation’s top cop, who declared this month that he’s not interested in monitoring brutality-prone police departments anymore. You expect it less from private companies (Amazon’s and Uber’s treatment of their employees aside), though airlines have been treating customers like animals for years. The difference is in discovering that the use of force is now permissible, as it was on that United flight.

But why not? We have a president who repeatedly acted as a goon at rallies, inciting his supporters to violence against protesters and once suggesting his opponent should be assassinated if elected. The authoritarianism starts at the top. He has his admirers. The devolution won’t be pretty.

Cue the ominous soundtrack that production-challenged terrorists love to tack onto their “we’re-coming for you” videos, the goons standing there with chorus-line choreography but with ski masks and flak jackets fat with ammo, their stern-eyed leader standing in the middle, saying those very words: “We’re coming for you.” It’s the sort of propaganda video ISIS made famous, so ridiculous it’s easy to confuse with a Saturday Night Live spoof.

Except that it isn’t. The video stars Peyton Grinnell, the newly elected sheriff of Lake County, here in Florida of course, because if this state doesn’t have something for SNL to spoof every week, it’s not the Visit Florida the rest of the world has come to love and jeer.

Grinnell claimed afterward, when he feigned surprise at the video’s backlash (so much for judgment) that he was just trying to ask residents to help put away drug dealers. He could have sent that message with a simple Facebook post, or a tweet, given that preferred literary style among showboating politicians.

The danger isn’t pot, it’s is unbridled power armed with flash bombs, Kevlar, rifles, badges and search warrants more easily acquired than herpes.

But Grinnell really wanted to play a cop on TV rather than just be one. This “Grady Judd wannabe,” as a friend described him (referring to the publicity-addicted Polk County sheriff) wanted to act as if he, unlike a few hundred thousand cops, FBI and DEA agents before him, will actually win the war on drugs, because clearly all it’ll take is SWAT teams blowing doors off their hinges, as he put it. His actual words, which I almost feel I should notarize as his here, because most readers would have every right to think I’m peddling fake news, are this: “So, to the dealers I say, enjoy looking over your shoulder, constantly wondering if today is the day we come for you. Enjoy trying to sleep tonight, wondering if tonight’s the night our SWAT team blows your front door off the hinges.”  

A little perspective here. A New York Times investigation just a few weeks, ago under the Grinellian headline, “Door-Busting Drug Raids Leave a Trail of Blood,” found that “from 2010 to 2015, an average of least 30 federal civil rights lawsuits were filed a year to protest residential search warrants executed with dynamic entries. Many of the complaints depict terrifying scenes in which children, elderly residents and people with disabilities are manhandled at gunpoint, unclothed adults are rousted from bed and houses are ransacked without recompense or apology.” There’s been killing, maiming and humiliation of innocent victims—not in the search for terrorists, for rapists, for murderers, not even for kingpins, but for neighborhood pushers of pot, crack, heroin, or that bountiful new seam of cop-ready busts, prescription pills. Stuff, in other words, that has either the same or lesser effect than booze, and that, demonstrably, harms, addicts or kills far less than booze. Stuff that, as with booze, should be the purview of nurses and doctors at the neighborhood clinic, not cops. But those SWAT teams need to be used for something, and there just isn’t enough crime to go around otherwise.

There are a lot of things policing does well. There are a few things it gets dead wrong. Turning cops into soldiers at war with their own citizens is one of those things, especially in the luridly called “war on drugs.” Even more especially when cast as tinpot acts cribbed from third-world cutting room floors.

No one is questioning that there’s a drug problem, assuming that alcohol is included. But sleazy propaganda and SWAT raids are the equivalent of firing 59 missiles at another country to “send a message.” It achieves nothing that wouldn’t have to be repeated days later. Enough times we in the local press have been invited to post-bust parades by local cops, after those high-profile sweeps of low-level druggies, knowing all along that almost every single one of the men and women rounded up would be out on bail in days if they weren’t already by the time the cameras were rolling at the “news” conference. Now that’s fake news.

Safe to say, hotshot sheriffs exploiting the gray zones of due process aren’t going to solve a 50-year drug war. Less punitive, more enlightened policies led by treatment options rather than prisons may make a difference. I stress may, because addiction is a medical, not a criminal problem, and addiction will never be eliminated. The more reason to treat it rather than punish it: it’s stronger than many of us.

But that’s not where we’re heading. We’re going back to the law and order narcotics of Nixon days, which birthed the war-on-drugs monster, but with the turbocharged authoritarianism of Donald Trump setting the example: a lot more than airline-passenger types are about to be yanked off their seats and dragged through hell. The drug to fear isn’t crack, it isn’t meth, it isn’t dope. Those are treatable, if we had the political will and the social service facilities (which we largely don’t: it makes for sucky TV). The drug to fear is unbridled power armed with flash bombs, Kevlar, rifles, badges and search warrants more easily acquired than herpes.

It’s been relatively calm along those lines here in Flagler. Let’s hope it stays that way. Let’s hope Flagler County’s cops from the top down aren’t as easily seduced by the same drug, remembering that we’re not at war—no, we’re not, and we’re not about to be—and the best use of force is still the force never used.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam. A version of this piece airs on WNZF Friday.

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29 Responses for “Goons With Guns, Sheriff Edition”

  1. Thomas says:

    Mr.Tristan is very articulate and provides an excellent news outlet. However his views are often utopian hogwash.

  2. Mark says:

    Yes, we should be worrying about which bathroom to use instead of enforcing drug laws. We conservatives are very bad people.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    From the top down a real bad example of human rights abuses with green flag. You are correct Pierre!

  4. JasonB says:

    “addiction is a medical, not a criminal problem” … No Pierre, that only partly right. Addition is an economic problem, it’s largely caused by poverty and economic hopelessness. You want to reduce drug addiction by half overnight, increase the minimum wage to 12 bucks an hour.

    And by the way, you have addiction spelled wrong, you’ve spelled it as “addition”.

  5. rst says:

    Well said Pierre, but prepare for the backlash…

  6. The Ghost of America says:

    imo of those police flanking him were real men instead of cowards they’d take those masks off.

  7. Gkimp says:

    Heroin is killing our youth because of the dismantling of aggressive drug enforcement . It’s time for a little law and order!

  8. Drew says:

    Has is this an example of bad human rights abuses? If you don’t brake the law, then you don’t have to worry about the police! Maybe Flagler county should step up game and crack down on the idiots in the area to cut back on the drugs and theft in the area. Maybe if the courts stop letting repeated offenders off with probation only to have them violate their probation and still not do anything about them, the county would be in better shape.

  9. as if.... says:

    not much makes me worry more about myself than realizing i agree with the militantly liberal, big word flaunting pierre tristam; but in this case i do.

    imo we have a problem with ego driven cops who get personally insulted if you dont cringe and cower in their presence and use their power for vengeance rather than to protect and serve. “i’ll teach you to ignore my lawful command to bow in my presence”

    i really have noticed that many cops are on a real bad ego trip. i think most would do the job for free just to get the power rush. im sure i’ll get slammed by the pickle suit fanboys and blue life groupies.

    and no i have never had personal run-ins with cops so this is not a sour grapes post. and for the record i know there are some good cops out there who aren’t in it for ego pump. i personally had a very good conversation with a flagler deputy who was very unassuming and void of any hint of a power trip. wish i knew his name so i could post it. thank you unnamed sir for being kind, considerate and professional.

  10. beachcomberT says:

    My memory may be rusty, but I think a big factor in the glorification of police raids has been the reality TV series “Cops,” which started in 1989, focusing originally on Broward County’s Sheriff Nick Navarro and his war on drug dealers. “Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you” has been burned into our national psyche. The series continues, and occasionally features other Florida counties. Flagler will get its turn eventually.

  11. Tired of it says:

    I am not the least bit surprised that your liberal views would be against the law and order that is needed to deal with the drug users and dealers that are the major cause of the majority of the crime in our country. Once again I will ask why do you stay here in our free, proud country if you have so many issues with it?

  12. JimB says:

    Reading this article one would think that the strong arm tactics of LEOs started Jan 20th after President Trump was sworn in, when in reality it has been happening for years.
    As a matter of fact, it started with the last Bush and continued with Obama. It was these two presidents that transferred billions of dollars worth of military weapons and equipment to police and sheriff’s departments all across the country. In the year 2011 alone, the pentagon transferred over $500 million dollars worth of material to domestic law enforcement agencies. I don’t think President Trump had a hand in that.

    The war on drugs in unwinnable. As long as there is a demand, there will be a supply and people happy to become rich on the sale of drugs. There are a multitude of people who can only find happiness when their brains are impaired by something… be it illegal drugs, doctor prescribed drugs, alcohol, etc. It’s a sad fact of life.

    As for our LEOs, I want them to have the latest and greatest equipment in order to compete with the bad guys. By bad guys, I am speaking of rapists, murderers and terrorists, not Joe Shmoe selling a joint. When I first saw the video above, I thought perhaps they were going to be-head someone. Bad choice of PR Sheriff Grinnell.

    Thanks for a great article Pierre but next time, leave your emotions at the door.

  13. Mark101 says:

    With 21 fatalities in the year’s first 41 days, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said a heroin epidemic is claiming an unprecedented number of lives. The total confirmed overdose deaths for January and the entire month of February last year was 18, this is why Lake county is talking action,. Lake County will reduce drugs in their county, why because they have law enforcement that will take it to the criminals that deal drugs. Heroin use in Flagler county is higher than you might think,. give it time and we will have our share of deaths.

  14. Pcbest says:

    More liberal talk. See where that got us???

  15. Sgt. Eugene Tackleberry says:

    Okay tough guy, go stand out in front of the Pill Manufactures spread out through the USA and tell them your plan! See how fast the lobbyist have you demoted to doing security at dollar store. These guys always create a boogie man. The average dealer ain’t flying this stuff in or producing it. Same crap different day.

    Take the time to read what disgraced LAPD cop Rafael Perez said. By the way he was one the people that inspired the movie “Training Day”.

    By revealing the unpleasant truths behind the badge that at one point I so proudly wore, I hope to right some of the many wrongs. . . . I will make every effort now and until the successful conclusion of this investigation to cooperate, provide insight and knowledge as to what went wrong at Rampart CRASH. . . .

    There is no justification for my misdeeds, either on or off duty. I can only say that I succumbed to the seductress of power. Used wrongfully it is a power that can bend the will of a man to satisfy a lustful moment. It can open locked vaults to facilitate theft. It can even subvert justice to hand down a lifetime behind bars.

    On the latter, I apologize to the courts and the juries that were my unwitting accomplices on those occasions that I wanted to secure convictions.Besides the exoneration of the innocent persons, what I most want at this time is to remind the greenest rookie cops that they too have this power. If used wrongfully. . . . [that power] can plant a defendant’s feet firmly on the path to the death house. . . . They need only to look to me and my impending prison sentence, to remind them that for whatever reason they might have to consider placing a finger on the scales of justice, it is morally indefensible and contrary to our constitution.

    I will ask rookie and young police officer alike to periodically revisit their oath and the reason they entered law enforcement. I will ask that you use me as an example of who you will avoid becoming. Do not let the pressure of status, numbers and impressing supervisors dictate the type of officer you become.
    The moment you cross that first line, it will be impossible to step back. To the young officers, I want to leave you with some admonishments.

    Listen very closely because these are words that I wish someone would have shared with me. I want to admonish you that you will be enticed by fancy mottos and phrases that will make you believe that there is a purpose and a reason for what they want you to do and what they want you to be. Used wrongfully it is a power that can bend the will of a man to satisfy a lustful moment. It can open locked vaults to facilitate theft. It can even subvert justice to hand down a lifetime behind bars. You will hear such things as “solid,” “loyal,” “can be trusted” . . . “hunt for the big elephant,” “special chosen group,” “if you deviate you articulate,” and “necessary evil.”I admonish you to closely evaluate what you are being told with those words. I assure you that they will pale in comparison for what you will eventually be: shameful, regretful and disappointed.Above the threshold of doors that lead to CRASH offices, you will read such philosophical statements as: “Some rise by sin and some by virtue fall,” as well as “We intimidate those who intimidate others.” To those mottos, I offer this: Whoever chases monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster himself.

  16. Sherry says:

    I consider this new way of “fighting a domestic war” by “militarizing and arming” our police to put “them” in brutal CONTROL of our citizens to be another horrific example of the new fascist, totalitarian philosophy of the new regime in Washington. “Government By FORCE” is the now the new mindset at ALL levels of government. A mindset that is now being adopted even in the private sector by massive corporations like United Airlines, aided by the “goons” . . . playing the roles of police. . . at the Chicago airport.

    Just follow the dotted line to the “stand your ground” laws in Florida that promote “vigilante” acts of community “terrorism”. That dotted line also encircles the “arms race” between the escalating “fire power” of the civilian population and those with the very difficult job of protecting themselves and the public. . . while arresting criminals and keeping our communities safe.

    The bottom line is that “violence begets violence”. . . when will our voters, and those they put in charge, ever finally learn that it is impossible to “bully”/ “bomb” / “blast” our way to a safe, peaceful, “civilized” society?

  17. Anonymous says:

    @ JasonB

    No matter what government artificially make minimum wag to be it will always be the MINIMUM. All other costs will also go up within that supply line. the guy who was already making $12 will want a equal raise in pay so will the next lady who makes what that guy just got as she has been working there longer then he and has a better work ethic. What we need is a vibrant and GRWING economy not a government run one.

  18. Dave says:

    These florida cops act just like terrorists in their video, what a bunch of jerks

  19. Jim R says:

    Anonymous you need to study the history of the labor movement. Business and corporations have been singing that same song since the beginning of the industrial age when they were working people 15 hours a day for 75 cents . the same old nonsense that everything will cost more if they pay a fair wage is just a tactic in the class war that has been going on forever and has obviously been successful considering how many parrot that line. Corporations just don’t want interference with their greed .
    But this article is about cops and what I have to say about that is generally speaking, they would love it if there were no restraints on their behavior, the kind of policing you see in Charlie Bronson and Clint Eastwood movies, damn the constitution.

  20. Sherry says:

    Thanks Sgt. Tackleberry. . . tremendous wisdom in those words!

  21. YankeeExPat says:

    That picture is an Alarming sight, all they need is the prophets seal Flag, and it would look just like an ISIS Photo Op.

  22. W.Ryan says:

    Retired now for over 12 years. I joined to help and be a force for good helping people and apprehending people that committed crimes so that they don’t rob, kill or rape. Crimes of this nature was committed against my family members and friends so naturally doing something about it was what my being a cop was all about. As I served I soon realized that there were issued with what I perceived and understood as my duties and what the politics of policing was. We’re in a police state as Flaglerlive .com wrote about a few months ago. Our young police officers and deputies come from a different era than I. They grow up with “Cops”, “24”, cop dramas, video games, the war on drugs and other polluted concepts about policing. It’s a twisted view but very easy to comprehend. The divide with police and citizens has widened and cannot be fixed with this right wing hawkish political system. Crime and punishment is the norm and the only fix. It takes too long to help anyone. I guess this is the mainstream because patience takes too long. God help us if you’re even there!

  23. The Ghost of America says:

    No, heroin is killing our youth because of the overprescription of oxycontin and the like. You hook someone on an opiate and then make it difficult to get because of the crackdown on pill mills, and congrats you have a heroin issue. If only there were some schedule 1 drug that actually shows proven medicinal benefits and that also, as a consequence of its recreational or medical legalization in over half the states in the US, shows a reduction of 30% or more in opiate-related deaths. Hmm. If only there were such a drug.

  24. Mark101 says:

    Update: Friday , Lake County Sheriff’s Office busted a massive drug ring after a four-month investigation, seizing heroin, cocaine and prescription pills, totaling nearly $140,000 in street value.

    Sat April 15, : High-level’ narcotics dealer, 5 others arrested in Lake County

    I will continue to support our men in blue that reduce drug deaths in our towns. PS: I’m as a retired Commander from the LAPD. You might not like his message, but his results will save life’s.

  25. W.Ryan says:

    It’s a shame retired LEO’s still hold the line. As a retired LEO of color I’m not subjected to the rhetoric that befalls other inexperience ( life experienced) retired LEO’ this Institutionalized profession of Law Enforcement. I’ve lived a life that had witnessed much and I am more than qualified to dispute and reject the notion of a militarized police force. Cops that hold the line and won’t accept fact believing fiction and manipulated facts formed by institutionalized delusional consciousness that policing should be very strict and dominating. The truth that we have masses of political prisoners in the U.S. put in prison for political gains by Presidents and other politicians both white and black that ran on a platform of strict enforcement of drug laws rewriting laws to get votes.” The southern Strategy”. The so called war on drugs had destroyed many communities of color and subjugated communities of color to poverty stricken communities. Now that the war has turned on a backdoor course we still can’t accept the fact that prescriptions kill and this is legal while the most harmless drug, marijuana is illegal. Who’s rewriting drug laws is as plain as day. but it’s ignored. But hear we are with White Collar crimes that crashed our economy and no one went to jail??? I worked the “Dirty Thirty”(Sugar Hill) and Washington Heights during the highest period of killings in NYC history. I saw many people die as I was usually first on the scene hearing the shots fired running in it that direction. Corruption was an easy game and I was a rookie. My training Sgt. kept us away from the major players because cops feel corrupted cops but say nothing because they hold the line. I’ve seen police abuse and at one time believed that some things were essential to enforce the laws of our cities. Rodney King changed that! I never pulled a trigger and I resorted to community based approaches because of where I grew up. I was happy to be sent after training to the 32nd down the hill. Some of the cops I trained wit did get snared in the corruption investigation. I had many felony arrests but mostly drug collars because of the crack epidemic. The violent crimes for robberies and gun possession were made as well. One instance I had was locking up a teen for possession of a tec-nine in the 25 pct. As dangerous as that sounds the strategy was not to shot him but to arrest him. I’m not unique to this type of police experience in NY or any other big cities. Most cops in “A” houses had the same. I write this not to brag but to say we weren’t dressed in storm trooper occupying garb. We were as frightening. I do support law enforcement I don’t bash. When we see some thing going astray from its intent we must acknowledge there is something wrong. This is Nazi Tactics and if we’re not careful we are doomed. Let the military do their jobs and let cops do theirs embracing the community they work . Storm Troopers and goons won’t save any lives!

  26. Sherry says:

    Thank you, W. Ryan, for your years of service to our family of humanity, community and country! Thank you also for your intelligent, thoughtful perspective and approach on the many challenges faced by those with the responsibility to keep us safe by enforcing our laws.

    You are quite correct. . . if we continue to “create” a fear and hate filled society of “US” versus “THEM”, we are DOOMED! We do not live in such a black and white world. Painting all those with drug addictions with a wide brush and labeling ALL as scum and criminals . . . while treating them worse than animals. . . will continue to de-evolve the human race back to the violence of the cave.

    We CAN choose a path of enlightened compassion. Our police force and politicians CAN be made to remember that they work for “we the people”. The police CAN be trained to FIRST “protect and serve” WITHOUT PREJUDICE!

    The bottom line question here is whether enough of us will step up and “require” our politicians and law enforcement agencies to personally and humanely “ABIDE” by the very laws they were elected and hired to enforce.

  27. sbckid says:

    rather have the front door blown off the hinges and the dealers get put away than have them out on the street selling to adults maybe even kids

  28. Lazaruis says:

    That’s my guys in blue !
    Protect and serve !

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