Election Section

Terrorism Begins at Home: A Personal Encounter With American Paramilitarism in America By PAUL MARCUS

Friday December 24, 2004

“Your typical platoon has never experienced house-to-house combat, where you kick in the door and toss in a grenade, and then see who’s in there. You don’t yell “Come out with your hands up” because by then you’re dead...  

That’s what I worry about when these kids come home, how that will impact them psychologically... 

Anyone who’s not nervous, ought to be...” 

—Ron Thomas, USAF (SpOps) 

as interviewed by Doug Sovern,  

March 23, 2003, KCBS Radio 



Friday, March 20, 2003 seemed to be a typical day for me. It was about 10:15 a.m., I had seen a couple of clients, and was finishing up some paperwork and listening to the news when I heard the outer door open and loud muffled voices shouting out and what sounded like banging on the walls. 

I work in a community outpatient methadone clinic. In the nearly 17 years I’ve worked there we’ve had the occasional altercation between clients, and even once or twice between clients and staff, but never anything major, and staff members are trained in conflict resolution and crisis intervention. Unfortunately, this made my first instinct to stick my head out the door to see what the commotion was. Perhaps if I’d reflexively hit the “panic” button—connected to the local police—things might have been different, or at least more interesting now. 

What I saw, silhouetted against the large front window, was four or five large figures in black uniforms and military-style helmets, guns drawn, proceeding down the hallway and kicking in the doors to the counselor’s office and the doctor’s office next to mine. I could not see, nor never heard the word “police.” 

When these men saw me they ordered my to put up my hands and step into the hallway. As I complied with this, they checked my work ID tag, forced me back into the exam room, and asked me who else was in the building. I was more or less assuming that there had been some kind of drug bust or robbery in the area, and they were conducting a sweep of the buildings. 

Then I noticed they were State Police (DOJ), and I asked them what they were doing. They then searched me, took my driver’s license, and handcuffed my hands behind my back. They said they were serving a search warrant, and proceeded to question me about what I did in the clinic, and in particular whether I dispensed methadone to clients or had anything to do with billing. They never showed me any warrant, explained my rights, nor offered explanation for the shackles. 

I was presently escorted upstairs, where I was allowed to join the other dozen or so staff members and a few unfortunate clients, sitting in a big circle in the lobby, everyone with their hands cuffed behind their backs. They then went through interviewing us one by one, and taking down information (address, Social Security number, etc.). I was one of the first few to be interviewed and allowed to leave, but when I went back by a couple of hours later the police were still there. 

This was the first day of the war, and people were edgy anyway. I actually had a toy pistol in my desk drawer (previously confiscated from a kid and never disposed of), which I was aware enough to tell the officers. Thankfully, I’m not one of those gun-totin’ Second Amendment defenders, or by all logic we’d have one dead officer and one dead Physician Assistant today. 

Apparently, this whole matter concerns allegations of MediCal billing fraud, which I am confident are unfounded. But even if the clinic HAD been defrauding the State, I cannot conceive of any rational justification for this military-style assault on our premises. If someone had just walked in and offered up a warrant for any records, I am sure they would have gotten our complete cooperation. I am pretty sure that it is a violation of clinic rules for anyone to bring a weapon into the building. 

Instead, the police chose to terrorize and humiliate the staff, and severely undermine the trust our clients will have in their safety and confidentiality. Workers are shaken, unable to work, requiring consolation if not counseling. 

The police left doors and locks broken (including one to an outside hallway which compromised the clinic’s security), and left unlocked our medical cabinet (where the syringes are), which I specifically instructed one of the officers to lock up, since they would not allow me to do it (he assured me they would). 

I believe our society is being increasingly polarized, and one manifestation of that is the growing disconnect between law enforcement/safety personnel and “civilians.” I believe police cadets are inculcated with a military-style us-versus-them, good guys/bad guys attitude, and an “end justifies the means philosophy” which leads to both less freedom and less security for the ordinary person. A society where you have to fear the trigger-happy cop as much as the drive-by crossfire. One where you have to fear the cop planting some cocaine on you if he doesn’t like your attitude during a traffic stop. 

The black uniforms, the helmets, the guns, are all meant to intimidate the innocent populace, while inflating the ego and emphasizing the separateness and superior power possessed by the police. The police now consider themselves above (or at least outside) the law instead of enforcers of it, dictators and not servants to the citizenry. 

I think we are already quite a way down the slippery slope towards abandonment of the core values and practices which made this country so different and so successful. Modern Democracy is as yet young and fragile, and may not survive the combined onslaught of religious zealotry and oligarchical feudalism pounding on our doors...Ã