Photo: Home of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas, murdered by police in failed drug raid
By Jennifer Kelly
Seven months after the Houston Police Department (HPD) murdered the Tuttle family in a botched drug raid, two of the officers involved were both indicted last Friday, Gerald Goines on felony murder charges and Steven Bryant for tampering with evidence.
In late January, HPD raided the home of Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas on supposed evidence of heroin dealing. The police murdered the couple and their dog during the course of the raid, and several officers were seriously wounded. The blunder prompted HPD to close ranks.
The president of the police union, Joseph Gamaldi, went on national television attacking “anti police activists” for their supposed role in the injury of the officers, saying that HPD would be keeping track of them from now on. Gamaldi has a personal interest in discrediting criticism of police, as he himself had been sued for brutally beating an innocent man and using racial slurs during his time with the New York Police Department.
The police narrative began to unravel thanks to the Tuttle family’s own investigation. No heroin was found at the scene, nor were any of the alleged weapons, supposedly seen during an alleged controlled drug buy carried out by a confidential informant. Further investigation showed that the confidential informant, whose testimony had been used to justify the raid, had been a complete fabrication on the part of officer Goines, who has since claimed to have carried out the drug buy himself but admitted that he could not confirm if he had even bought the drugs from Tuttle or another man.
Police Chief Art Acevedo has emphasized that he has no reason to believe that this is part of a systemic problem with HPD, omitting the fact that HPD defended the officers until the results of Tuttle family’s investigation called their testimony into question.
These officers acted based on the conditions of their employment: enforcing bourgeois law and order. The killing of the Tuttles is not unlike many other legal raids that have violently invaded the homes of the masses. It is unusual for police to face such serious charges, but throwing Goines and Bryant under the bus is a small price to pay to maintain the illusion that the police protect and serve rather than terrorize and repress.
“If you lie, you die” Acevedo said in February, “there’s a lot of pissed off cops,” implying that the indicted officers are rare examples of dishonest police. In fact, their illicit behavior exposes the true motivations of bourgeois policing Acevedo and his underlings want to conceal.
The wealth amassed by the world’s sole hegemonic imperialist power makes the US the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs. The “War on Drugs,” initiated in the 1970s, has always been a war that has targeted the oppressed nations and the working class. Today, militarized police departments around the country rely more and more on “no-knock” style raids, shock tactics, and overwhelming force in their operations against drug supply, and the masses suffer the consequences.
While arrest quotas are officially banned in many police departments, the culture of numbers-based policing persists according to recent reports, incentivizing officers to make up crimes even when none exist. Coupled with the bourgeois justice system’s standard refusal to prosecute officers for anti-people crimes, cases like that of Goines and Bryant are not anomalies but the logical outcome of a police system designed to enforce the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
Goines and Bryant are being harshly prosecuted not because the state cares about corruption but because they revealed the class character of policing in the US, where the repression of the masses, especially the oppressed nations, is the primary objective, and the notion of law enforcement is a convenient but dispensable pretense.