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12/14/2005 Archived Entry: "When enforcers crash in"

KIM DU TOIT HAS SENSIBLE WORDS on the senseless practice of kicking down doors without extreme justification. But I'd like to take that one step further.

He writes:

1. I will grant, very reluctantly, the fact that occasionally the police will require extraordinary powers in order to catch serious criminals.
2. However, on the basis that extreme measures also require extreme caution, I will also stipulate that if a LEO (or more than one LEO) gets shot during a no-knock raid which has been made at the wrong address, that the homeowner MAY NOT BE CHARGED with any felony.

Let me be even more specific.

When a law enforcement officer raids the wrong address, he has passed from being law enforcement to a law breaker. Source: U.S. Constitution, Amendment IV, which reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.óNote the emphasis, because itís important.

Du Toit doesn't name Cory Maye, but he appears to be inspired by that catastrophe. Thanks to Radley Balko's later reserach, however, we now know that the enforcers did have a warrant to search Maye's duplex unit.

But the warrant -- though it might be typical of drug-war boilerplate warrants today -- is a piece of incredibly sloppy, meaningless junk.

The warrant and its allegedly supporting affidavit (both pdfs):

This isn't a constitutional search warrant or affidavit. This is a parody of the sort of warrant the Fourth Amendment is supposed to ensure. This is a warrant based on air and guesswork, supported by nothing except more air and guesswork.

And yet, today, faux warrants like this one are commonly being used not to justify polite searches, but to justify terrorizing Nazi-stormtrooper raids on anyone some police officer decides to target for any unsupported reason. Does this make any sense to anyone with a brain, an ounce of caution, or a concept of justice?

Du Toit is correct: extraordinary tactics require extraordinary care and preparation.

And when police soldiers crash into residences with so little care for the Fourth Amendment, for property rights, for genuine investigation, for the lives of innocents, and even for the lives of their fellow officers, they do indeed deserve to be shot as burglars. Because burglars and potential murderers is all they are. In fact, they're worse than freelance street criminals, because they use the power of the state to justify and back their crimes.

Criminologist Peter Kraska was also correct in an interview he gave me. He said that SWAT raids are being used as a "crude investigative tool" aimed at finding "drugs, money, or guns" that the police could once only have found by patient, methodical investigation. Now it's just, "Hey, there might be some dope or some forfeitable assets in there. You never know. Let's break down the door and see!"

SWAT tactics were developed to be used in truly extraordinary circumstances: hostage takings, barricaded (violent) suspects, terrorist incidents. SWAT teams are still sold to the duped and tax-paying public on that basis. But it's BS. When police soldiers conduct approximately 40,000 paramilitary raids against U.S. citizens each year and 80 percent of those are to serve routine drug-war search warrants, we're not only being duped. We're being ruled by stormtroopers.

I could herald SWAT officers who used extraordinary skills and training against extraordinary villains, thus ending immediately life-threatening crimes and saving lives. But the only people who crash into homes in the middle of the night on flimsy to non-existent justification are violent criminals.

Posted by Claire @ 08:29 AM CST

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