The First Rule of Policing – and the Harm it Does, Part IV

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Part of a continuing series, see Part I, Part II, and Part III.

OK, so far we got that police officers are worried about their safety, that the War on Drugs have not worked, and that SWAT was designed for high risk operations.

The problem is that all of these things have come together and had an unintended consequence.  As the War on Drugs continued and some of the criminals began to use more violent methods, it was natural that police would begin to use SWAT on those raids.  In some cases, it was appropriate to do so.  Just as was the case during Prohibition, some criminals were violent and fought the police.  For example, in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, SWAT raided a series of homes used by a criminal gang.  In addition to large amounts of drugs, a bullet-proof vest and 13 firearms were seized.  Or in Sonoma County, California, where SWAT raided the home of a known gang member, who was out on bail from a previous drug arrest.  SWAT seized drugs and guns, including an “assault weapon.”

The problem is mission creep.  Once the police got used to using SWAT, it became more common.  So now police departments regularly use SWAT for any search.  Examples abound of the misuse of SWAT:

  • Arlington, Texas SWAT raids an organic farm, holds residents for 10 hours.  The crime?  Code enforcement violations.  Oh yeah, these people are hippies, so there are probably drugs involved.
  • Saint Louis.  SWAT served an “administrative” felony warrant, because SWAT serves all felony warrants.  Really?  What happened to arranging for the perp to surrender?
  • Orange County, Florida police and a state regulatory agency perform a number of warrantless “inspections.”  In the raids, 37 people were arrested, the vast majority for misdemeanor “barbering without a license.”  See Barry v. Demming, No: 6:11-cv-1740-Orl-36KRS, 2013 WL 4500467 (M.D. Fla. Aug. 22, 2013) (summary judgment denied, there is a question of fact whether the search was reasonable and if excessive force was used).
  • New Haven, Conn. police used SWAT to check if bar patrons were of legally drinking age.  Really?  Yale students are going to attack the police?  Look, I’ve handled underage drinking.  These kids do not assault police for the most part.  They either run or try to use fake IDs.  Whoever thought that using SWAT was appropriate should have been demoted or fired.
  • Atlanta, Georgia.  SWAT is used to raid a recording studio for copyright violations.

And those are just some of the ones where no one was seriously injured.

When questioned, for the most part the police try and justify the use of the SWAT teams.  Remember, in the police mindset, the First Rule of Policing takes precedence—and they don’t think of the right of the citizen to go home safely.

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Update – Springdale Police Officer Sentenced to Prision

Comments Off on Update – Springdale Police Officer Sentenced to Prision

Earlier I had written about Springdale police officer Mark Thom, his abuse of local citizens, and the city council that enabled him.

Last week Thom was sentenced to prison for a year and a day, and then to 3 years probation following release.  U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak told Thom that he would never serve as a police officer again.

The former police chief Joseph Naviglia said that Thom is “a habitual liar and a very conniving and manipulative person.”  Naviglia also said that the city council protected and covered up for Thom.  You’ll remember that I pointed this out in my past article.

Springdale has had to pay out $225,000 in the incident leading to the criminal charges, and $98,500 in a separate case.  But I guess Dave Finley doesn’t care about that either.

The First Rule of Policing – and the Harm it Does, Part III

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Part of a continuing series, see Part I and Part II.

Special Weapons and Tactics.  SWAT.  A valuable tool that has been overused and misused in the police field.

charles_whitman_ut_towerSWAT began for a good reason–it was needed.  On August 1, 1966, a former Marine with an undiscovered brain tumor, Charles Whitman, murdered his mother at her apartment and his wife at their home.  Whitman then went to the University of Texas tower with “six guns, a shotgun, ammunition, a foot locker, knives, food, and water.”  Loren Coleman, The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow’s Headlines 21 (2004).  He killed three more on his way to the observation deck and then opened fire.

Whitman killed ten more and wounded thirty-one more from the tower.  Austin police responded, but there was no planned response.  Ordinary Texans with deer rifles showed up and provided suppressive fire.  Officers made it into the tower and up to the observation deck, where they had to get past the barricaded door.  Two officers, Ray Martinez and Houston McCoy then shot Whitman to death.  Gary M. Lavergne, A Sniper in the Tower: The Charles Whitman Murders (1997); Ron Franscell, Delivered from Evil: True Stories of Ordinary People Who Faced Monstrous Mass Killers and Survived (2011).

SWAT was formed from this, and other events.  Depending on who you believe, either Los Angeles or Philadelphia were the first to form the teams.  The teams were initially used properly, for high risk incidents like bank robberies in progress, or other incidents involving heavily armed subjects.  They were, for the most part, successful, with operations such as the 1974 Symbionese Liberation Army shootout or the 1984 McDonald’s killings (ended by a SWAT sniper).  When you have a useful tool, you begin to look for other problems to use it on, and when that tool is a hammer, problems start to look like nails.

So SWAT began to be used for other tPolice from tactical team making entry to serve a high-risk drug related search warrant. Street Narcotics Unit.hings, like drug raids.  “In 1972, there were just a few hundred paramilitary drug raids per year in the United States.  By the early 1980s, there were three thousand . . . and by 2001 there were forty thousand.”  Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 74 (2010).  Some of these are warranted and there are plenty of examples of big drug dealers using weapons to protect their drugs.  SWAT is perfect for those.

But as many have begun to point out, with the increased use of SWAT, there have been increases in both idiocy and errors, some leading to unnecessary fatalities.  Radley Balko, Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America (2006); Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (2013).  Errors do not however, slow down the idiocy.  In 1994, a botched Boston PD SWAT raid at the wrong address caused the death of a respected cleric by heart attack.  The police commissioner personally apologized and vowed to insure that this would not happen again.  Boston Official Apologizes After Cleric Dies Following SWAT Raid At Wrong Address, 85 Jet 8-9 (Apr. 11, 1994).  In 2012, Boston Police have expanded the use of SWAT to include raids on prostitution parlors, in order to seize sex toys, condoms, pajamas, and cash.  While I’m sure that we wouldn’t expect a respected cleric to be at a house of ill-repute, I’m also sure that expanding the use of SWAT to raid whorehouses is idiotic.  It is the expansion of the mission that keeps SWAT in business.

In addition, SWAT types have a different mindset, a combat mindset.  We’ll cover that in more depth next.

The First Rule of Policing – and the Harm it Does, Part II

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Part of a continuing series, Part I is here.

While Remsberg and Calibre Press were conducting seminars on officer safety and survival, the sociological climate of police was changing.

In 1968, President Johnson created the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to centralize the response to illicit drugs.  By 1971, President Nixon had declared a “War on Drugs” and by 1973 the Drug Enforcement Administration was formed.  Initially, this encompassed a treatment based approach, such as the methadone treatment centers established in Washington, D.C. by Robert L. DuPont.  A year after the centers had been established, serious crime rates dropped significantly.  Richard J. Bonnie, The Virtues of Pragmatism in Drug Policy, 13 J. Health Care L. & Pol’y 7, 14 (2010).  At the same time (in 1972 and 1973), the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, recommended the decriminalization of marijuana.  Id., at 13.  Twelve states have followed that approach.  James Austin, Rethinking the Consequences of Decriminalizing Marijuana, NORML.org (Nov. 2. 2005).

Instead, the government moved towards a zero tolerance policy and strict criminal enforcement of drug laws.  The term “War on Drugs” was used over and over, with other militaristic terms also being added to police language.   We’ve done the same thing in the past, with the war on alcohol, commonly known as Prohibition.

The War on Drugs has paralleled the results of Prohibition.  See Norm Stamper, Prohibition: A parallel to modern war on drugs, Seattle Times, Sept. 30, 2011.  Chief Stamper (retired chief of police, Seattle) explains it more eloquently than I can, and more information is available at the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition website.  The problem is that the drugs are winning and the police are losing the war.  With millions of dollars at stake, drug gangs have increased the stakes and become more violent.

The police responded with SWAT teams.

 

 

Kennedale Texas Police and Fail to ID; Ignorance Still Abounds

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It would be nice if I could post a story about how a police officer in Texas really understood the state’s Failure to Identify statute, Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 38.02 (West).

Unfortunately, this ain’t one of those.  A female Kennedale, Texas police officer responded to a call about several males open carrying rifles.  This isn’t a real good idea, but that’s a different issue.

(edited to restore video, thanks to Lewis Garza)

The first thing I get a kick out of is when the female officer ask the men if the rifles are loaded.  Duh.  Dumb question.  Would she trust them if they said the rifles were unloaded?  And then she acts surprised when she is informed that they are loaded.  Then she asks the men not to record her (“could you put that down, away from me?”) as if that was going to happen.

At about 0:25 she requests ID and the men immediately refuse.  The man’s spokesperson correctly informs her that the only time that he is required to ID is if he is being arrested for committing a crime.  That is exactly what the law requires, as we have discussed here and here.  And she immediately asserts that she has a right to know who they are.

She seems to believe that if she makes contact, she has the right to demand ID, and she offers “officer safety” as a reason.  It seems logical, but unfortunately she does not have that right.  See St. George v. State, 197 S.W.3d 806 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2006), aff’d, 237 S.W.3d 720 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007).

The officer is probably Ofc. Tara Culpepper.  Kennedale has a chief, a captain, four sergeants, two detectives, and thirteen officers.  All are obviously male except Culpepper and a recruit officer.  Well, I suppose Jamie and Chris ‘might’ be females, but I doubt it.

In any event, she needs some in-service training on the matter, not that she’ll get it.

In North Carolina, It’s OK to Commit Felonious Assault if You’re the Police

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On October 31, 2013, Johnnie Williams drove through a DUI checkpoint without stopping, and then led police on a chase.  During the chase, he reportedly rammed a police cruiser, and he was eventually stopped by officers who ran their cars into his.  Williams is being charged with multiple felonies over the incident.

I don’t have a bit of problem with any of that.

I do have a problem with what happened next.  After the chase was over, you can see Williams surrendering.  Both of his hands clearly come up in the “I give up” position.  Then we see Wilmington officer Stafford Brister pick up his K9 and shove it through the window at Williams.  Of course the dog immediately attacked Williams, causing serious injury.  Brister and the other officers then stood back and watched.

The district attorney took the case before the grand jury, which no billed Brister.  In most states, if a DA wants an indictment, they get an indictment.

The police chief says that sometimes the job “isn’t pretty.”  No argument there, sometimes it isn’t.  I don’t care what the POS suspect did, you still don’t toss a dog in the car with him.

Brister can still be prosecuted, but it would have to be a federal civil rights trial.  Wilmington is in the Eastern District of North Carolina, and the U.S. Attorney is Thomas G. Walker.  His contact info is:

Office of the United States Attorney
310 New Bern Avenue
Federal Building, Suite 800
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601-1461
Phone: (919) 856-4530
Fax: (919) 856-4487

WTF happened on Nov. 21st?

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I haven’t been very active this fall on the blog, so my readership has naturally dropped to about 100-200 a day.  Yeah, I know, the numbers suck, but if you don’t put articles out there, it is what happens.

Anyway, on the 21st, I get like 6,500 visitors. Huh?  WTF just happened here?  And why wasn’t I told?

Almost all of them go to this post, on the Middleton, CT police department and its problems.  Well, that gets my curiosity up, so I sort of look around to see what I can find.

Well, it turns out the police shot another person, killing this one.  Supposedly, the man refused to drop a knife, but at least one witness never heard the police say anything before they shot Leonard Whittle, 25.  Others state the police repeatedly told him to drop the knife.  The family’s lawyer has called for an independent investigation, currently the state police are looking into the matter.

According to the boy’s mother, he was bipolar.

I’m assuming that people were doing a google search and found my blog, but I can’t be sure.

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