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The militarization of our police - proper use?
Posted by: McQ on Sunday, November 25, 2007

While the thread for "The Endarkenment" rolls along, will someone tell me why something like this happens all too often in our country?
The cops were at the right spot, but at the wrong time.

A SWAT team from the Milwaukee Police Department burst into Denise Berndsen's apartment and turned the place upside down looking for evidence of child porn.

Oops. The man they were targeting had moved out five weeks earlier.

Instead they roughed up Berndsen, who had returned home from back surgery that day, her 74-year-old father, and a man she had just started dating and who for a few terrifying minutes wondered what he got himself into.

Pray you don't follow any pedophiles or drug dealers on an apartment lease. You might get unexpected guests at the door with badges, riot helmets and assault rifles.

" 'Hit the floor!' " Berndsen remembers hearing. "My apartment was wall-to-wall cops."

"It was the first time I ever had handcuffs on in my life," said her father, Jerry Berndsen, an Allis-Chalmers retiree who served in the Army and Army Reserve for decades.

"It was just a real freaky scene," said Denise's friend, William Schmidt, who said he scrambled to the floor after an officer pointed a rifle at his face.
SWAT? Serving a search warrant for child porn? Am I missing something here? Since when does it take "Special Weapons and Tactics" to serve that type of a warrant?

Worried about the possible problem of having evidence destroyed before it can be secured? Then take a couple more cops. Or, here's a thought: at best, have SWAT down the street standing by and ready to respond immediately to a radio call if necessary. Or, best of all, serve the warrant at work when he's away from his home computer.

But really, what were they looking for? One guy and child porn.

And that takes a SWAT team?

Well, probably. Because, you know - now that your police force has one, they have to find a way to justify their existence, don't they?
 
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The argument you need to be able to counter is:

"This was needed for officer safety. You saying you like dead cops?"

The over use of SWAT seems to be one more natural outgrowth of the current mentaility that if we can prevent one death from any cause regardless of the cost (including more deaths) we should do so. Especially if the "at risk" group has any social status. (i.e. children, police, firefighters, etc.) We as a society are willing to do anything to prevent risk.
 
Written By: Ryan
URL: http://
Would you have been any happier if the Child Porn Squad had served the warrant? Are you arguing that the uniforms and the detectives would have treated them any differently? No, of course not, this is just you and Balko railing about SWAT teams. These folks would have suffered the same fate is someone OTHER THAN the SWAT team had served the warrant. Or is it your contention that only the SWAT team would have failed to notice the tenant had moved out 5 weeks previously?

You can complain about SWAT teams, rightly, and their over-use but this story is not evidence of your case. Sorry, Dale and Radley.


 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"This was needed for officer safety. You saying you like dead cops?"
That supposed argument could be made for every warrant ever served. And past history just doesn’t support it. So I have to ask, is the SWAT team now the defacto warrant service squad?

Again, proper use?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
These folks would have suffered the same fate is someone OTHER THAN the SWAT team had served the warrant.
Really? So no warrants are ever served without busting down the door and putting everyone on the floor?
You can complain about SWAT teams, rightly, and their over-use but this story is not evidence of your case.
Yeah, there’s overwhelming evidence that purveyors of child porn are a violent lot, especially when they live alone.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
This seems like an intimidating "prophylactic" tactic. It is designed to put the fear of God into child porn practitioners. It is generally good politics for the police department even when they make mistakes.

I am not in favor of this type of tactic. I am just explaining why police departments use it.
 
Written By: vnjagvet
URL: http://www.yargb.blogspot.com
Well McQ all you and Dale and Radley have to do is demonstrate that the SWAT Team:
1) Was the only group that would have NOT noticed the tenant had left;
2) Only the SWAT team would have treated the tenants this way....

That’s all if it so OBVIOUS that SWAT Teams use excessive force, mreely compare non-SWAT and SWAT service of warrants.

Oh and "Militarization of police" could we have a rational, objective definition of this term? Is it wearing fatigues and combat boots or is it the use of SWAT teams (and how does that prove the point) or is it changes in police attitudes towards the civil populace, please provide some sociologica evidence to support this, please (if you can show that in the 1970’s the Police viewed us as their slary-payers and generally good people as compared to today where they view as the grass in the field to be trampled would be good).
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"Would you have been any happier if the Child Porn Squad had served the warrant?"
I think we should just nuke the site from orbit.

"It’s the only way to be sure."
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Joe -

Any police department who is serving a warrant on someone who has been moved out and who has had someone else move in is staffed with morons.

And it’s not like this is an isolated incident. Ten years ago I had nine state troopers, in riot gear, show up at my work only to find out that the guy they wanted had a different middle name than me, a different picture, a different social security number, and actually had worked at a branch of my company 2 years previously that was 60 miles away. All of which were eminently checkable by a high school intern with a telephone.

Oh - and they wanted the guy for ten unpaid parking tickets. Crackdown, yanno. Gotta call out the stormtroopers for those parking scofflaws.
 
Written By: The Gonzman
URL: http://
As per Cassandra’s comments in the last thread, I don’t think this is representative of an ’endarkenment’, merely indicative of the nefarious tugs and pulls from various angry interest groups. Granted it may well be symptomatic of an overall societal malaise, but it is not substantive enough, in and of itself, to warrant inclusion in the main body of the thesis.

To truly chase the roots of a society willing to ‘give up rights in order to gain temporary securities’, you’ve got to go back to the Great Society, and earlier. Railing against the Patriot act is empty rhetoric unless one equally rails against the IRS. Protesting against government supported corporate America is meaningless until one includes government sanctioned union malfeasance as well. Legislating racial preferences to alleviate racial discriminations; promoting individual choice in reproductive issues while denying choice in schools and smoking; and lest I forget, all the travesties of liberty that have occurred in the ‘war on drugs.’

The point being fellas, there is loads of evidence to support the ‘endarkenment’ thesis. Don’t blow the thesis by including things that are ancillary.


 
Written By: bains
URL: http://
The reason for a SWAT team could be that some/all of the porn and probably all the porn related contacts are on a computer could be wiped at the press of a button or two and the information was time sensitive.

Doesn’t explain this f-up. But I could see using a SWAT team to go after a child porn suspect especially if they were a key member of a networked group.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
The reason for a SWAT team could be that some/all of the porn and probably all the porn related contacts are on a computer could be wiped at the press of a button or two and the information was time sensitive.
Yeah, and obviously 3 or 4 regular cops couldn’t prevent that, because, you know, they never were able too before SWAT teams, were they?
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
SWAT teams are a paramilitary organization. Their intent is to address heavily armed suspects and highly dangerous situations. The problem is that SWAT teams are becoming more of the norm than the exception. Further, they seem to make a lot of mistakes and terrorize or even kill innocent citizens. We simply do not need to have a paramilitary organization serve warrants for child pornography. It is almost as if the serving of this warrant was a training exercise rather than a necessity.

Rick
 
Written By: Rick Caird
URL: http://
SWAT teams are a paramilitary organization.

Check.

Their intent is to address heavily armed suspects and highly dangerous situations.


Roger that.

The problem is that SWAT teams are becoming more of the norm than the exception.

Whoa, son. I’m going to need you to step outside that car and put your hands behind your back.

Must be some really well off PDs out there who can afford to bring in SWAT teams as "more of the norm than the exception".

 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://villainouscompany.com/vcblog
all the porn related contacts are on a computer could be wiped at the press of a button
Arrest the guy at work or somewhere other than his home.

That would also solve the problem of a suspect having access to an arsenal within his home.
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
I’d say both "This’ll show everyone we really mean business on this!" combined with "We’re spending a fortune on this tactical team stuff, we HAVE to use it!"

In some cases add in a level of flat stupidity and/or incompetence.
 
Written By: Firehand
URL: http://elmtreeforge.blogspot.com
The reason for a SWAT team could be that some/all of the porn and probably all the porn related contacts are on a computer could be wiped at the press of a button or two and the information was time sensitive.
Yeah, and obviously 3 or 4 regular cops couldn’t prevent that, because, you know, they never were able too before SWAT teams, were they?
SWAT teams for municipal police departments were around well before WWII. What do you think the answer to your question is?
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Yeah, and obviously 3 or 4 regular cops couldn’t prevent that, because, you know, they never were able too before SWAT teams, were they?
I don’t get the point really.

Is the problem they have a paramilitary affectation? So being roughed up by regular cops would make you feel better about it?

There’s very little difference in possible outcome with the four regular cops vs. the SWAT Team. Its like comparing getting run over on the highway by a Malibu to Mack Truck. Dead is dead.

They may take a bit longer, but they’re just as able to tear my apartment to shreds, rough me up, or kill me as the SWAT team. In fact, the four cops scenario where the cops work together and know each other would seem more capable of misconduct and conspiring to make false claims to cover it up than a SWAT Team with members of other departments present.

If this is about no-knock warrants than say so and argue that. But after that, if your rights are violated, it just seems like the size of the show.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
SWAT? Serving a search warrant for child porn? Am I missing something here? Since when does it take "Special Weapons and Tactics" to serve that type of a warrant?

FYI, there was a case here in Fort Lauderdale (a year ago, approximately, although I’m not terribly sure of the date) in which a sheriff attempting to arrest a child pornographer at the man’s house was killed (shot at point blank range) by the intended arrestee (who, IIRC, ended up being killed himself by the dead sherriff’s colleagues). There was much venting about why a SWAT team was not used to serve the warrant in the wake of this (I think the dead sherriff’s family is suing the BSO on that ground), because the child pornographer had made explicit statements that he intended to kill any cops who attempted to arrest him, was known to be extremely well armed, and because the warrant was served on him at home, instead of someplace where he might not have immediate access to weapons. I would be surprised if the Milwaukee cops did not know about the case. Of course, that does not mean that the man they were targeting was similar to the man in Fort Lauderdale. The Milwaukee guy may have been as cowardly as the Duke of Chin in Bridge of Birds.

But some child pornographers, obviously, can be armed and dangerous.

Of course, there is one small but important difference in the cases: the BSO at least had the right address.

(And I am not in the least dissenting from the view that the police are in general grown too big for their spit and polished boots.)
 
Written By: kishnevi
URL: http://
So the comment that bothers me in the original post is this one:
And that takes a SWAT team?

Well, probably. Because, you know - now that your police force has one, they have to find a way to justify their existence, don’t they?
Big jump there, but actually a Swat team is a group of what, 8-10 officers?, for whom we are paying salaries. If the question is should we keep these guys sitting in the station playing cards all day unless we need to really use (not just carry but fire) those special weapons and rely on those special tactics then yeah I have a problem with that. As far as I’m concerned if they are off serving warrants and making arrests like other police so that other police can be off doing other police work - so much the better. On those occasions where they abuse those special weapons and tactics yes I have issue, but the fact that it was the Swat team as opposed to some other group of officers non-issue.

Also one final note - I bet the SWAT team doesn’t taser nearly as many people on these raids as a group of nervous typical street cops will. Again yeah you can point me to cases where they’ve abused their power but in most cases they are just another group of police that should be out there doing this type of work. Let’s face it in the case you site the appt. would have been turned upside down for porn either way - but nobody got tasered or arrested for not responding to officer requests.

btw, I have a great story of a raid for a suspected drug dealer on July 4th. Suffice it to say my friend’s favorite part (he wasn’t involved in the drug portion just caught up in the raid) was when the cops joked that it was the first time they’d been treated to a fireworks display prior to a raid. (Note the target wasn’t home was later picked up elsewhere and none of those in the raid were guilty or sent to jail or injured - although everyone’s hands were secured for a little while.)
 
Written By: BillS
URL: http://bills-opinions.blogspot.com/
So being roughed up by regular cops would make you feel better about it?
Why would anyone need to be roughed up when serving a warrant to arrest a man for child porn?
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
So being roughed up by regular cops would make you feel better about it?
Why would anyone need to be roughed up when serving a warrant to arrest a man for child porn?

So the complaint is about the "roughing up" not the SWAT team, then? So this is evidence of a DIFFERENT problem than the one posited, right?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
When I was in my early twenties living in a rental house outside of Oklahoma City in a middle class neighborhood, I had a roommate that was a real dog when it came to the ladies. And sufficed to say he had repeatedly drawn the ire of a few boyfriends and ex-boyfriends.

On one particular occasion when my roommate had angered the ex-boyfriend of his most recent conquest, this ex-boyfriend had enacted his revenge by misleading the local police to believe that we had drugs and guns in our household.

One night as I was on a first date with a lovely young lady, I had managed to con her into coming back to my place for a nightcap. As we turned the corner on my street, I noticed half a dozen police cars in front of my place with lights flashing. As natural as it was, and still is, for me to avoid police all together, I calmly and as if nothing were out of the ordinary, turned to my young lady friend and said, “Perhaps it is best if we go to your place.” Despite my best efforts, this young lady’s suspicions were aroused and the evening was abruptly shortened.

After I had waited for the police to leave, my roommate informed to what had happened.
Apparently, the cops bought in to this crank and busted into my house with their guns drawn. They found no drugs but did manage to find the two legal hunting rifles that I had in my closet. Note that neither of the guns were loaded nor did I have any ammunition for them, but that didn’t stop them from confiscating my property and destroying the lock on my front door. Not to mention scaring my roommate and his friends half to death. And they considered themselves lucky for not being shot to death.

What I gathered from this episode is that it was painfully obvious that the police had performed no investigation prior to invading my home, destroying and confiscating my property. I had learned later that not even the landlord had been informed.

Looking back, I wish that I would have somehow fought the police in court and sued for damages. I don’t know if I would have won or not, and I did manage to get my guns returned to me after some time. I do believe that our rights were violated and would have been nice, if only out of principle, to have made some noise about it.

At the time, however, I was most annoyed by the cops having totally cockblocked me. Bastards!!!

Cheers.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
It used to be called the ’rifle squad’ and it wasn’t called out to serve warrants for crap like this.

Clothes maketh the man - and when you dress up in your camo’s, with your goggles and your black headbag and helmet(presumably so none of the perps can identify you later....) and you take your long arm probably full auto assault weapon you are going in with a much different attitude than if you’re wearing your day uniform, or your detective suit, and your standard service sidearm.
You are LOOKING for trouble which will require you to act in the manner to which you have attired yourself.

Another wrong location.
How about adequate recon? Doesn’t that sound like a good idea?
And that suggests research, observation, etc.

The presumption I see a number defending is overwhelming force is always a good option. That it’s likely to save lives.

Except when they haven’t done their research, and kill some granny, the wrong granny, after she manages to drop THREE of your team in the gun battle. Thereby I’d say your SWAT argument is kind of weak.

Think about what these real stories, imply.
They really ARE going in, without knowing in some decent detail, WHAT they are up against, how many, who, where.
They’re going in assuming that overwhelming force is an adequate substitute for accurate intelligence.
Whereas, if they had ACCURATE intelligence, they wouldn’t be smashing down the wrong door, and risking their own lives, as well as the lives of innocent citizens.

Recently there was a discussion of the death penalty here at QandO. I could be wrong, but some of the same people defending the use of SWAT here were arguing against the use of the death penalty because ’an innocent’ could be put to death improperly.
How is this working out to be any different than the death penalty killing innocent people (and without a trail, no less).
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I guess my point is that the SWAT team wasn’t the lot in charge of Intell...I’d submit that the Child Porn Squad would have kicked down this door, too. The problem isn’t SWAT teams; the problem is the delivery of warrants and the intell necessary for the proper delivery. But Looker what would you have the cops do? "Is Bob here?" The only answer you can trust is, "Yes." Because if Bob is there but the tenants like Bob they’ll lie for him and if he isn’t the cops don’t know if the tenants are lying or telling the truth.

So I’d appreciate how Looker and others would have the cops "confirm" Bob’s presence or non-presence in an area....bearing in mind that in the case of a HORRIFIC abduction and murder of a teen girl, the "perp’s" family covered for the perp. Suggesting that simply asking isn’t going to do the trick and that staking out the apartment isn’t an option with THOUSANDS of warrants to be delivered.

That’s what I like...someone defining "militarism" and then someone providing some concrete ideas about how the cops can do this better, given the circumstances. Stop moaning about "militarizing" the police and the mis-treatment and tell me what could be done better. Hint: I actually do think that there are some procedural changes that could make this work better, but I’m willing to hear from the opponents about what they’d change.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
So the complaint is about the "roughing up" not the SWAT team, then? So this is evidence of a DIFFERENT problem than the one posited, right?
Uh, no. As you blockquoted, I was responding to a specific question.

But to relate it to the original point: a SWAT team does not serve a warrant without using a lot of force. They don’t just knock on the door, wait for you to answer, and politely but firmly inform you of the warrant and arrest you.

A paramilitary wing of the police force is not necessary to serve a warrant on a guy swapping illegal pornography on his computer.

My last point was that a normal group of officers serving a warrant are not going to go into the house pointing weapons at everyone, shouting and screaming, and forcing everyone to the floor to be bound.

What’s next — are we going to approve of a SWAT team raiding a loud party with underage drinking?
 
Written By: JWG
URL: http://
My last point was that a normal group of officers serving a warrant are not going to go into the house pointing weapons at everyone, shouting and screaming, and forcing everyone to the floor to be bound.
Oh RLY? And why is that?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I’ve had cops come to my door looking for people.
They knocked, they identified themselves, the explained why they were there.

The point here is not every warrant is one that requires SWAT.
That’s the point,
bearing in mind that in the case of a HORRIFIC abduction and murder of a teen girl, the "perp’s" family covered for the perp
isn’t what this was about.
We can always concoct a scenario where they really needed to use recoil less rifles firing HE first, but that’s not what actually was involved, right?

It was about child porn, not abduction, not drugs, not missing children, not slave trade.
Adequate intel allows one to decide what the proper mix would be to serve the warrant. It’s NOT "There’s a granny over on 4th that has 10 outstanding moving violations and she hasn’t shown for any court appointments, send out the SWAT team, we need to round her up."
SWAT team wasn’t the lot in charge of Intell
Right, though as the head of the SWAT team, I think I’d have wanted some estimates of the dangers my team was facing, wouldn’t you? Otherwise what kind of plan do we devise to hit the place to ensure we’re not risking our lives?
I want a plan, not "get em!".
So, SWAT’s responsibility lies in successful implementation of the actual assault. They can point the finger of blame if they were told this child-porn dude was known to have 3 accomplises armed to the teeth and willing to die for porn and it turns out to be granny at the wrong address. If they’re not actually in charge of intel they have to go with what they are told.

So when I’m told I’m going to raid a child-porn dude, my first question is going to be ’what’s he armed with? How many of them are there?"
You don’t think a "wtf" moment should have occurred when they told them they were hitting a child pornography perp? When they might have said, "well, gee, do you think our sub-machine guns and body armor will be enough? Shouldn’t we maybe consider getting an National Guard APC with a .50 mount on it too? - har har?"

The first line of people who are at fault aren’t the SWAT team, it’s the people who think using SWAT is called for in cases like this. Then it’s SWAT leaders who agree to use their team in this kind of case and don’t call bullsh!t on it.

These guys aren’t kids, they have a responsibility as guardians of the public to know when they are going over the line.

I like the comment above - next time just nuke it from orbit.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Clothes maketh the man - and when you dress up in your camo’s, with your goggles and your black headbag and helmet(presumably so none of the perps can identify you later....) and you take your long arm probably full auto assault weapon you are going in with a much different attitude than if you’re wearing your day uniform, or your detective suit, and your standard service sidearm.
You are LOOKING for trouble which will require you to act in the manner to which you have attired yourself.
You just perfectly mimicked the reasoning behind the "assault weapons" ban.

The problem is not that scary-looking dudes are serving the warrants.

The problem is that the cops, however they are dressed, are receiving warrants for sloopy, iffy investigations and then using excessive force to serve the warrants.

The judges granting the warrants on flimsy evidence, the detectives doing the slip-shod investigation, and the brass that bless the whole process are equally culpable.
Arrest the guy at work or somewhere other than his home.
How many times was this perfectly reasonable solution suggested after Waco? Especially in this case?

Seriously, if the perv has kids in there, then bust the door down. If not, nail him the next time he goes to CVS to buy a new jar of vaseline.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Arrest the guy at work or somewhere other than his home.
How many times was this perfectly reasonable solution suggested after Waco? Especially in this case?

Seriously, if the perv has kids in there, then bust the door down. If not, nail him the next time he goes to CVS to buy a new jar of vaseline.
Because the cops know where he works...just like they "knew" where he lived...oh and when they swoop into the McDonalds NO ONE is going to complain about that are they?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
You just perfectly mimicked the reasoning behind the "assault weapons" ban.
If so, unintentional & since, other than to note the weapons they carry fit their outfits, the ban, wasn’t mentioned, AT ALL... I don’t see what the issue is.

So, let me be very clear.
I’m not saying the police shouldn’t have assault weapons available to them for use when necessary. Nor am I saying private citizens shouldn’t be able to own them, and a folding stock, and bayonet fitting or bayonet don’t make them any more lethal than they already are.
The first line of people who are at fault aren’t the SWAT team, it’s the people who think using SWAT is called for in cases like this. Then it’s SWAT leaders who agree to use their team in this kind of case and don’t call bullsh!t on it.
Is that really that much different than -
The problem is that the cops, however they are dressed, are receiving warrants for sloopy, iffy investigations and then using excessive force to serve the warrants.

The judges granting the warrants on flimsy evidence, the detectives doing the slip-shod investigation, and the brass that bless the whole process are equally culpable.
Or did you just not like that I happened, inadvertently, to mirror a stupid argument for banning certain assault weapons?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I see two arguments in support of this kind of thing, both from the cops and their choirs:

1. Ensure safety of officers.

2. Prevent the destruction of evidence.

To the first, why should cops be entitled to safety that goes beyond their own exercise of reason, civility, and restraint? Put another way, I suspect that one reason for all of the "wrong door" raids is because they are afforded the luxury of overwhelming force — force sufficient to brutalize their way out of the just consequences of their own careless (often capricious or even sadistic) acts. Bluntly: cops ought to be shot when they mistakenly crash through the doors of innocent people who’ve done no harm (the sorting out should come later). They just ought to be, just as anyone ought to be. To exempt cops, because they are cops completely obviates home defense, because it sets an impossible standard. The burden is henceforth upon you to first determine that any intruder is not a cop.

The second requires acceptance of a collectivist, socialist premise whereby heretofore only imagined, speculated, or alleged "evidence" takes on a value greater than that of the lives and safety of suspects or accused. It’s even more valuable than the lives of the cops, and they’re clearly recognized this by beefing up. This is a consequence of a willingness to sacrifice the lives of some (break a few eggs) in the pursuit of a collective ideal that justice pertains to a society and not to individual victims.

I’ve got no problem with someone willing to risk their lives in the pursuit of catching bad guys, but they ought to bear their own risks, accept the consequences of screwing up — such as if they get shot going into the right or wrong house, and they ought to pay full restitution if they go into the wrong house. They’ve got no right to involve innocent bystanders and the ideal of justice is completely perverted when we accept that completely innocent people ought to accept such risk as a reasonable part of living in society.

It’s funny. We have a pretty decent criminal procedure in court for serious offenses like murder and rape and so forth. The burden of proof is very high, and people generally understand why: it’s preferable that a number of guilty go free that to convict a single innocent.

But when it comes to mere suspicion, many seem perfectly willing to terrorize, maim, or kill perfectly innocent people in their own homes going about their peaceful routines.

It’s called an "acceptable cost of doing business;" acceptable, that is, to everyone but the ones paying the cost.

 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://honestylog.com
Bluntly: cops ought to be shot when they mistakenly crash through the doors of innocent people who’ve done no harm (the sorting out should come later). They just ought to be, just as anyone ought to be.
Yeah that’s a reasonable position...and people wonder why libertarians get thougth of as cranks.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I agree that the use of SWAT teams (constituted as such) to serve routine warrants is troubling. What bothers me, in this post and the last, are generalizations and assumptions made in the apparent absence of evidence, like this:
And that takes a SWAT team?

Well, probably. Because, you know - now that your police force has one, they have to find a way to justify their existence, don’t they?
The thing is, McQ could have phrased the same thing as a question and it would not bother me so much. But I don’t understand the almost reflexive willingness to assume the worst.

As one commenter pointed out, we don’t actually know *why* a SWAT team was used here. He gave an example where ordinary service of process on a child porn suspect arguably *should* have been accomplished via a SWAT team, but wasn’t - with what I’d call ’less than optimal’ results both for the officer’s family and the PD, which may be sued for their failure to exercise more care.

So why are we so willing to assume the worst?


Go ahead - ask the question. But can’t we as bloggers try not to do what we have criticized the lamestream media for - projecting our pet theories onto others with no evidence, or issuing sweeping Abu Ghuraib-style pronouncements, as Dale did in the other post?

This is a point I’ve made in the past in regard to milbloggers - last time I checked the police were supposed to be on our side, just like the ’evil PAO’ some folks just love to second guess and vilify on not much more information. I’d like to think my son is still on the side of the angels. I know his Dad and I spent 18 years of our lives raising him to be an honorable man. Call me naive, but his wife wouldn’t stand for him being corrupt, nor for him hanging around corrupt cops. Not everyone is out to get us in life, or is stupid, or incompetent.

I really don’t like coming over here and reading this kind of thing. Ask questions, be critical all you like. But I just don’t see the need to assume the worst right off the bat.
 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://villainouscompany.com/vcblog
Joe:

In the interest of averting a possible misunderstanding, I would clarify that I mean this in the heat of the moment of home invasion, when people don’t have a clear sense of what’s happening. But I would also say that the utterance of "POLICE!" does not clarify anything. Those are just words, and short of additional confirming information do nothing.

After the fact, everyone should conduct themselves civilly, including police, and sort things out.

But if your objection is general, then I don’t know what to say to you. If you don’t believe yourself worth defending from a possible home invasion, than I’d probably have to agree with you.

 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://honestylog.com
Regarding Richard’s comment:

I would buy off on the same standard being applied to cops and civilians.

It is called the law, and it just needs to be applied equitably. There are few states in America where the use of deadly force is excused, even in a home invasion situation, unless you legitimately think your life is in immediate danger. Having cops bust in on you (unless they completely failed to identify themselves) in no way qualifies here. Sadly, we don’t get to make it up as we go - we are bound by state laws. But I would be horrified beyond belief and do not want to see SWAT teams routinely conducting no knock raids to serve warrants.

However, I don’t think that is realistically what is contemplated. It does happen sometimes, and it is an abuse when it happens.

It bothers me when I hear someone say it would be OK to shoot a cop in a situation I know (because I taught law in a CC situation) would be extremely unlikely to be ruled justifiable self defense. A cop who tased your husband, then merely opens a car door to speak to you after the fact is not threatening you with deadly force. Sorry, but your subjective fear doesn’t qualify, folks.

You may not like him, you may fear him, or hate him, but you don’t get to kill him. Nor is jury nullification a responsible option for someone who breaks the law.

A cop who is unnecessarily harsh or scary during service of process, likewise, does not necessarily get to be shot by you. The law still applies to you, just as it did to him. It’s called a reasonable man standard.

By the same token, PDs should not be winking at this stuff. They also should not fry people to mollify public sentiment. Both things happen.

 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://villainouscompany.com/vcblog
The thing is, McQ could have phrased the same thing as a question and it would not bother me so much. But I don’t understand the almost reflexive willingness to assume the worst.
As opposed to an almost reflexive willingness to believe that the use was proper ... or at least an inclination to do so.

I’d simply point out that if their use was based on intelligence that this guy was armed and dangerous, it would have been nice if the intelligence had also been current enough to know he’d moved out of the apartment 5 months before.

As you noted, you too have trouble with SWAT being used to serve a routine warrant. And I find it hard to believe this was anything but that, given the poor intelligence they were handed. Seems to me if they were tracking and getting ready to take down a dangerous child pornographer, they’d have eyeball confirmed he was there before ever busting down the door. Wouldn’t you think so?

Since that isn’t the case, and since their information was so out of date, seems to me they were acting on someone else’s info and simply serving a warrant because they were available.

That’s why I assumed what I did.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Because the cops know where he works...just like they "knew" where he lived......oh and when they swoop into the McDonalds NO ONE is going to complain about that are they?
First, it appears that you are arguing that the cops are too incompetant to ever arrest anyone under any circumstances. Is your contention really that since the cops screw up all the time then we just oughta let ’em screw up in a grand and dangerous manner?.

The point is that the cops are the ones that determine the place and time of the arrest, not the suspect. They can pick a much better time and place than an apartment in the middle of the evening. They also don’t have to "swoop" down on him while he’s sitting among the kiddies in the playplace at McDonalds. They can bust him as he gets out of the car. They can have a unit act like it is pulling him over for a traffic violation on the way there. They can bust him on his morning jog. Etc., etc., etc. Hell, if you insist that they have to enter the restaurant, they can wait till he’s taking his post-breakfast burrito dump and burst into the stall while he has his pants around his ankles.

Second there is a difference in potential consequences between a screw up in a situation where they are busting down the door of a house where the guy and/or his buddies may be locked-n-loaded and waiting for them and a situation where they just walk up to a guy that just got out of his car so he could walk into the restaurant to buy a McMuffin.

In the house they are dealing with a potentially hostile and basically unknown situation. They can’t be certain exactly what the suspect is doing at the time of the arrest, how many other folks may be present, where those folks may be located, what they are doing, etc. Every nook, cranny, room, peice of furniture, etc. in the house may present or hide a threat. It’s an inherently tense and dangerous situation that calls for a degree of force that is far more likely to escalate.

On the other hand, in the McDonald’s parking lot the suspect won’t have access to his theoretical stash of assault weapons. He won’t have access to the evidence that he is theoretically going destroy. He and his surroundings will be in full sight prior to the arrest. Referring back to Waco, he won’t be barricaded behind locked doors, surrounded by potential human shields. As a bonus, the cops will be out in the open. They’ll be under observation by every passerby in the surrounding area. And lots of those passerbys will notice. Some of them will even have camera phones.

Changing the place and time of the arrest totally changes the dynamic of the situation.





 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Changing the place and time of the arrest totally changes the dynamic of the situation.
Yeah, but probably doesn’t help justify your SWAT team budget expenditures for next year.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I have no idea how these things are done, Bruce. I can’t speak for others but I didn’t make any assumption at all, either for or against, just as I didn’t automatically assume it was a routine warrant (though it sounds like one).

Maybe it was a miscommunication - that happens far more often than people like to admit. Maybe someone was supposed to update the guy’s whereabouts and didn’t (which is a serious problem in and of itself). I guess what I’m saying is there are a lot of things we don’t know here. I don’t automatically assume malign intent when things go wrong.

I was a housewife and mother most of my adult life, but I’ve worked long enough now to know when things go wrong in the workplace, more often than not it isn’t by design. This seems the type of thing that is almost destined to go wrong: the Internet crimes division probably doesn’t serve warrants normally itself so they put in a request and some information goes with it, and it’s like the telephone game after that. All these moving parts and something is bound to get barfed up.

 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://villainouscompany.com/vcblog
Somehow I’m not willing to overlook the use of potential deadly force incorrectly as a back office ’ooops’.

Ooops is when they knock on the door with a warrant and find out the guy has moved. They ask to see some id and agree they have the wrong address. That’s ooops.

Why should we settle for anything less than 99.99% accuracy when they’re about to go in on an assualt where they are clearly assuming probable hostile response?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I don’t automatically assume malign intent when things go wrong.
I’m not sure where what I’ve said comes across as assuming "malign intent", Cass, but the fact remains that if this were something SWAT was doing on its own, you’d expect them to know where their target was and have confirmed his presence prior to committing the team. If not, then they don’t need to be in that particular unit.

That isn’t an assumption of malign intent, that’s an assumption that they were being used to make someone else’s case based on someone else’s intelligence (or in this case, lack thereof). In reality this is a case of pure old sloppy police work and it leads to things like this (this being a more benign example - remember the 87 year old woman gunned down in her home in Atlanta?).

IOW, this would have been outrageous even if 3 or 4 regular cops had pushed their way in to serve a warrant.

It becomes even more outrageous given who was used to serve the warrant because (again an assumption which gives SWAT the benefit of the doubt) it appears it wasn’t even their case, they had not developed the intel or taken the most basic and fundamental steps to ensure the person for which the warrant was to be served was even home (and if it was their case, their commander should be looking for a new job today).

I base those assumptions on the experience of being a ops guy for 18 years. Ops are ops and a certain level of planning and basic intel are necessary for such operations whether police or military.

In effect, this ended up being a "legal" home invasion. There’s entirely too much of that happening and its not something I find particularly "supportable" when it does. And this also appears to be an improper use of SWAT.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"Malign intent" isn’t necessary where sheer bloody-minded stupidity will do the trick. And think of the perversity: these people are held out to be some kinda of super-species professionals, and the record that they’re amassing coast-to-coast and just about weekly now is completely sickening when it’s not up-in-arms outrageous. It makes me wonder how the flagrant stylists who star in the TV shows can hold their heads up on camera. (That particular phenomenon, by itself, should have started the klaxons sounding in the minds of sentient adults a long time ago. Here’s a clue: "Real heroes never talk about it," and they sure don’t go parading around like goddamned Hawaii Five-O updated to kevlar and terrorist hoods.)

And this must be said, too: to compare "things going wrong in the workplace" with the life and death imperatives that come with this sworn obligation that police bear is utterly ridiculous. If people are going to argue for these morons’ incompetence, then I will happily stipulate, but it should be kept in mind at all times that that’s what is going on.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
First of all, I agree with you that this incident was unacceptable. I don’t think I’ve argued that point.

1. I’m not sure the use of a SWAT team in all instances is inherently wrong/bad but I do think that - all other things being equal - using SWAT teams to serve routine warrants increases the chances of something going wrong.

However, I think everyone will admit it is quite possible for a well trained SWAT team to serve a warrant on the right suspect, at the right address, without roughing innocent parties up, destroying property, or scaring the crap out of people who haven’t done anything wrong. The thing is, I don’t have the slightest idea whose responsibility it was to check on the whereabouts of the suspect before the warrant was served. I also don’t understand, even if the suspect was supposedly dangerous, why it was deemed necessary to smash up the suspect’s personal property. That seems wrong.

There were several mistakes made here, one of which (the intel part) could have been purely administrative and some of which were more operational in nature (when the warrant was served and the search carried out with excessive force). If the warrant and search had been executed flawlessly and with courtesy, the first mistake (going to the wrong address) would not have been very serious, would it? It would have been merely an annoyance, vs. the outrage it turned out to be. It was the flawed service of process which actually caused the problem.

2. ’Malign intent’ was a pretty poor choice of words on my part. I was up almost all night the other night and really wasn’t firing on all cylinders yesterday. That said, I don’t think I suggested anything ought to be excused, did I?

I specifically said, "Go ahead and ask the questions." I never said to gloss anything over, so that’s a misread of my comment.

What I was saying was don’t read more into a situation than the facts on hand will support. So you say, "What the heck happened here? Who sent a SWAT team to serve what appears to be a routine warrant? Why didn’t anyone bother to ascertain the whereabouts of the suspect? Who was in charge of the SWAT team and why were they so out of control?" But you don’t accuse them of deliberately sending the SWAT team in to justify their presence on the budget, when you don’t know that is why they were used, because that *does* smack of reckless negligence when (as many people have observed) lives are at stake. There are some that would call such recklessness "malign". I think it’s even OK to ask, "Was it negligence, or was it deliberate?" I just don’t think it’s kosher to draw conclusions when you don’t have the facts in front of you. But that is just me.

Anyway, I think this standard is a reasonable one and it’s exactly the same standard we have asked journalists to apply to war reporting, and I believe bloggers should adhere to it as well. The reason I believe it is important is that some people spend a lot of time public confidence in institutions. I don’t think this should ever be done needlessly, and certainly not ever in the absence of facts. Ask questions, but don’t make unsupported accusations which may be excerpted or quoted on another site out of context. And yes, I’m a Pollyanna, but then I’ve spent most of my life raising kids. If we want good people to become police officers, if we want an honorable and competent military and respectable public servants, we can’t tear down our own public institutions. We have to monitor them carefully, but responsibly. And I’m sorry Billy, but saying ’f*** the police’ doesn’t carry a lot of water with me as a responsible reaction to even an outrageous incident. All professions have their bad apples

As for what goes on on TV shows, I really can’t speak to that. I don’t watch them.
 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://villainouscompany.com/vcblog
Arrrrgggghhhh!!!! :)

The reason I believe it is important is that some people spend a lot of time tearing down public confidence in institutions.

*sigh*

Look, I didn’t mean to sound as though I’m lecturing anyone, though I know it may sound that way :) It is my nature to be frank. All of you, even the ones I disagree with, have raised great points and have made me think.

I will admit to being dismayed by the tone of discourse on the web and in politics these days. It seems that few are able to disagree civilly anymore. This has been a pleasure - I rarely comment on sites any more, and I thank you all for your courtesy and your patience.

 
Written By: Cassandra
URL: http://villainouscompany.com/vcblog
The reason I believe it is important is that some people spend a lot of time tearing down public confidence in institutions.
Really? I hadn’t noticed. The majority of my time that I’ve spent in these sorts of discussions over 15 years has been watching people display a shocking level of blind faith in such institutions in spite of all rational evidence to the contrary.

I have no confidence in them, though I have great confidence in honest individuals, whether they work in such institutions or not.

It’s just there’s fewer and fewer honest people in them, and they certainly aren’t attracting very many either.

 
Written By: Richard Nikoley
URL: http://honestylog.com
"The reason I believe it is important is that some people spend a lot of time tearing down public confidence in institutions."
There are some institutions that have to be torn down, Cassandra.

That’s just the way it is, sometimes.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Ps. —
"As for what goes on on TV shows, I really can’t speak to that. I don’t watch them."
Maybe you should.

You don’t have to like what you see on television, but it really can be an excellent gauge of what’s going on out there.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
It will prove functionally impossible to demilitarize the police if the armnament level of the population at large continues to increase.

The consequence of the failure of gun control is the need to give the police bigger guns.

It’s the same as any arms race in any contested territory. Idiocy may have been behind this individual example, but the larger policy environment created the permissive circumstances.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
2nd Amendment - despite what YOU think it means and what YOU think it’s there for.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://

 
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