On October 15, 1985, more than 100 law enforcement officers swarmed the entire town of Jerome, Arizona. The historic hilltop hamlet was a boomtown in the 19th and early 20th century after copper deposits were discovered nearby.
Once the copper was gone, Jerome atrophied into a ghost town by the early 1950s. But some counterculture hippies rediscovered the town in the mid-60s, and for 20 years it served as an artsy, bohemian enclave.
Jerome also loved its pot. Residents grew the drug in the nearby hills, and legalization sympathizers had taken over the local government. Jerome officials took a live and let live approach to marijuana. That is, until an informant moved in and began recording his conversations around town for state and federal anti-drug agencies.
The team of state cops and federal agents moved in early that autumn morning. One resident told The New York Times, “To bring 100 policemen into a small town at 5 o’clock in the morning, dragging women and children out of bed, scaring them half to death, to get 9 or 10 pounds of marijuana is asinine.”
Police later said the haul was closer to 50 pounds. They arrested over 20 people, including the police chief, two city council members, and the former mayor.
A spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, which organized the raid, explained to the Times why the aggressive tactics were necessary. “It’s a town that would like to secede and carry on its own life style. The people there strongly believe in an individual’s freedom, above all else.”
And we certainly can't have that.
(The "Raid of the Day" features accounts of police raids I've found, researched, and reported while writing my forthcoming book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. It's due out in July, but you can pre-order it here.)
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