The crimes of the state are not always obvious. Some ideas are so deeply embedded in society that even pointing out the terrible actions of the state only elicits responses of shock and disdain that you dared to question the status quo. This is especially true for the case of Anthony Reaves of Delaware County, PA. He was a police informant for the drug trade in Chester, PA.
He was shot dead in retaliation for his cooperation with the police. And while the police were not the ones to pull the trigger, they have Anthony Reaves’ blood on their hands.
According to the Philly.com article by Chris Palmer and Jeremy Roebuck, it started out this way:
Thomas, Reaves’ attorney, said his client first encountered police in Chester about two years ago after he was pulled over with cocaine in his car. While acknowledging that Reaves sold drugs, Thomas said Reaves had a daughter, a job at a municipal water department, and a great relationship with his family.
“It wasn’t like he was standing on the corner slinging drugs,” Thomas said.
According to Thomas, state troopers seized Reaves’ cocaine and let him go, but they wanted his help in return.
Being a snitch is a great way to make enemies. And both Reaves and his attorney knew it.
Drug dealers he had implicated while cooperating with police were caught on a wiretap plotting to kill him.
He had begun staying with family and friends outside Delaware County, worried that he’d be an easy target for retribution if he kept living at home in Brookhaven.
And when Reaves, 41, had to return to Delaware County Court in July for his own case, his lawyer was so afraid that Reaves would be seen that he tried to hide him in the hallways.
None of the precautions worked.
On July 31, less than an hour after Reaves walked from the courthouse, he was ambushed and shot dead in Southwest Philadelphia. Investigators believe he was targeted for his reputation as a snitch — and his attorney contends that authorities who tapped him as an informant did not do enough to keep him safe.
“They created a special relationship, put him in a position of danger — and when he stopped helping them, they wouldn’t help him at all,” said Leno Phillip Thomas, who represented Reaves before his slaying, which remains unsolved.
The police and the rest of the state apparatus know the danger they put informants in when they put them into these situations. And they don’t exactly ask them if they’d like to participate—they extort them. “Help us catch some criminals or we’ll throw you away for years and years. That sure would be a shame for your family, wouldn’t it?”
I guess a lot of people take the risk instead of the guarantee of a ruined life through the state’s prison system. Unfortunately for informant Anthony Reaves, he made the wrong decision.
If he were actually a threat, why let him back on the streets? He clearly wasn’t a threat, but they don’t just let people off the hook. No, they figured they could make a deal with him—a perfectly “legal” deal. But it’s only legal because the state is doing it. Had it have been the mafia who made Anthony Reaves an offer he couldn’t refuse, we know how that would be viewed by society. It would be considered criminal and rightly so. He was forced to work for someone with no way out.
What do we call it when a person is forced to work for someone and violence is used to keep him working?
We call that slavery. That’s exactly what being a police informant is.
We’re not talking about the state using informants to prevent something drastic like a terrorist attack. We’re talking about using informants like Anthony Reaves for the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs is an absolute failed attempt at prohibition. While I won’t defend the violent actions of any drug dealer or user (nor will I advocate the use of any particular hard drug), it is of the utmost importance to understand why violence is associated with the illicit drug trade.
As I have written before, it is the prohibition, not the prohibited, that causes the violence:
The problem with dealing with business involving contraband is that you can’t take someone to court and sue them if they cheat you. Instead you have to take matters into your own hands if you want to be taken seriously. Let some people pull fast ones on you, and you’ll soon develop a reputation and your business won’t last. How do you get the “cred?” You have to make examples of people. If Big Jim cuts your crack with powdered sugar, you don’t write to the editorial section of your local newspaper to write a scathing review of your drug dealer.
Because of the required discreetness of black markets, transactions cannot be made in the open. Payment or delivery of goods and services are difficult to guarantee. I’m pretty sure you can’t use a MasterCard to pay for your dope. In the black market, you can’t threaten someone with a bad credit rating or a bad review from the Better Business Bureau.
The police and the state are responsible for putting people like Anthony Reaves in these deadly situations. They created the prohibition, which creates the violence, which makes the whole situation appear as though it needs more intervention by the police and the state. The way that they can keep people like Anthony Reaves and the rest of his community safe is by ending the prohibition on drugs. Then normal white market business practices can replace violence.
But there’s too much money involved in the War on Drugs and local, state, and federal police and government agencies develop their budgets based on receiving funds for it. It’s big business for the state. And to make matters even worse, they crack down on the mechanisms and structures (like the Silk Road) developed by the black market to increase safety and help solve problems nonviolently.
We cannot allow the state to dictate what is right and wrong. We must judge the agents of the state in the same way we would judge anyone else. This includes their practice of extortion to create a false consent to be an informant and placing the adequate blame on them when the informant is harmed.
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