Friday, June 28, 2013

The American Police State: Booze Division

This is something that wasn't done during Prohibition.
Even when Eliot Ness took on Al Capone.
A mob of Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents in plainclothes surrounded a young woman and her two roommates late one night. The men pulled their guns, jumped on her car like crazy people, waved what looked in the dark like toy badges, and demanded the young women get out of their car and submit to the armed men's every demand. The women, terrified, drove away from the scruffily clad gang and dialed 911 to report the incident. When the women discovered the men really were law enforcement officers they surrendered peaceably.

What was the original crime that the agents felt warranted drawing their guns and threatening death?  The agents thought the women may have been under 21 and buying beer. The women were 20 years old college students, but had only bought bottled sparkling water. No crime had been committed but even if there had been beer it didn't warrant an armed assault.

When the agents discovered they had screwed up they arrested the women anyway and charged them with felonies for fleeing the terrifying attack. Fortunately, the district attorney applied common sense and dismissed the felony charges. But his common sense is limited as he also refused to chastise the mob of agents for their extreme behavior when the worst crime they suspected was a woman may have been a few months too young to buy beer. It could have been worse. The agents could have gunned down the unarmed women for the crime of suspected underage drinking.

I don't understand why Alcoholic Beverage Control agents carry weapons. It's not like modern Virginia is plagued with gangsters smuggling bootleg hooch. What other Virginia agencies unnecessarily arm their employees? Is the Board of Accountancy packing heat? Certainly the Tourism Board issues Glocks to their employees.

I don't understand why the ABC agents approached the women as a mob, brandishing guns and issuing threats. Why didn't just one agent politely ask the women if they were old enough to buy beer? The whole matter would have been resolved peaceably in thirty seconds.

Actually, I do understand what the agents were doing. They were trying to provoke an incident where they could have made the young women submit to an invasive pat down. The agents saw an opportunity to feel up some cute, young co-eds.

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