In a country that was built on revolution, being rebellious and anti-authoritarian makes a person somewhat of a hero. But when law enforcement officials abuse their power, it gives people all the more reason to lose their trust in individuals who are supposed to be enforcing the law.
On April 20, 23-year-old UC San Diego student Michael Chong was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for suspected drug use. He was taken in during a house raid where agents, according to the LA Times, found guns, ammunition, thousands of ecstasy pills, and other drugs.
The agents were right to suspect that Chong and the eight other individuals at the raid were part of an ecstasy distribution operation; however, the question isn’t over Chong’s drug use, but the DEA’s treatment of Chong after he was arrested that has people up in arms over the entire incident.
After he was released, Chong told a San Diego TV station that the DEA held him in a cell for five days without food or water, leading him to drink his own urine to survive. According to Chong’s lawyer, Gene Iredale, the 23-year-old also suffered from hallucinations, and Chong described himself during those five days as being “completely insane.”
The DEA has since apologized and claimed that Chong being held up in the cell was a “complete accident.”
Excuse us if we don’t buy that sorry excuse.
Sure, accidents happen, but how life-threatening accidents by professionals at an agency notorious for its meticulous and selective hiring process happen is a wonder to us all.
Chong admitted to getting high and using methamphetamine, but his guilt did not call for such a brutal punishment. If Chong was using and selling illegal substances, there is no objection on our part that he be tried and punished appropriately, but by resorting to such tactics, the DEA made itself look bad while simultaneously making Chong a victim.
The DEA’s dedication to cleaning our streets of drugs is commendable, as are the many risks they take and the sacrifices they make while on the job. But incidents like the one with Chong turn a blind eye on all the good they have done. Police brutality is nothing new, but seeing somebody like Chong who is so close to our age and at a UC school where many of us plan to go makes the incident so much more real.
Though we are absolutely disgusted with how Chong was treated and condemn police brutality on any and every level, we don’t think now is the time to put oil to the fire and jump on the bandwagon attacking law enforcement. Sure, there are cops who abuse their power, like the DEA agents involved in Chong’s case, but there are bad seeds in any group of people.
Let’s not forget the good that often times overrides the bad and generalize all law enforcement as being corrupt and brutal. That’s just not the case. It feels good to rebel against authority, but keep in mind the thousands of officers and agents who died on the job standing up for the law and protecting the public.