A viral Facebook video posted by the Lake County Sheriff’s Department in Florida features the sheriff surrounded by four masked officers, their eyes hidden behind sunglasses, their torsos protected by bullet-proof vests, wearing the olive green pants of the military — not the blue of law enforcement. Many on social media have pointed out the similarities to ISIS videos, which usually show a row of masked militants issuing extreme threats to enemies. They look like some sort of para-military hit squad, and that's what Sheriff Peyton Grinnell promises they will be.
"To the dealers that are pushing this poison, I have a message for you," the sheriff warns. "We're coming for you. As a matter of fact, our undercover agents have already bought heroin from many of you… To the dealers, I say: Enjoy looking over your shoulder, constantly wondering if today is the day we come for you. Enjoy trying to sleep tonight as you wonder if tonight's the night our SWAT team blows your door off its hinges."
Since 90% of heroin users are white and white people are more likely to deal drugs, but most of those arrested for dealing drugs are black, the obvious question is; who is the sheriff's target? Lake County, Florida is 84.3% white and only 10.8% black, however, it's predictable that mostly black suspects will be targeted.
The sheriff's message presumably was designed to be reassuring for the good citizens of Lake County, but the sheriff's promise of increased para-militarized, high-intensity, middle-of-the-night drug raids is anything but, given the record of SWAT raid errors over the years.There's no shortage of news stories about police targeting the wrong house often with disastrous results.
In the Trump era, the fear that Sheriff Grinnell actions might be the first step in a new war on black people has to be considered. The election of President Trump has emboldened racist to commit overt acts. Recently a woman was denied an Airbnb rental and was specifically told it was because of her race. When the renter said she would report the racist action to Airbnb officials, the host replied: “It’s why we have Trump.”