Monday, July 13, 2009

Some nice examples of just how professional cops can be

Balko from The Agitator has published a new column piece over at Reason Online. It details some examples of how SWAT teams are going haywire with incompetence, cruelty and recklessness in Maryland, and it's a very thrilling and disturbing read – and, for animal-lovers such as I, also quite infuriating and saddening. I've quoted some bits below I thought should be spread around, to increase awareness and hopefully stop these fucking incompetent twits from causing more harm than needed.

Prince George's police originally obtained a warrant to search Calvo's home after intercepting a package of marijuana sent to the mayor's address. Calvo and his family were innocent—the package was intended to be picked up by a drug dealer. But instead of first investigating who lived at the residence, or even notifying the Berwyn Heights police chief, the county police department immediately sent in the SWAT team. In addition to having his two dogs killed, Calvo and his mother-in-law were handcuffed for several hours, and questioned at gunpoint.

That's pretty horrible enough as it is. They guy and his mother-in-law are forcefully interrogated, not to mention the man's two beloved dogs are murdered, probably for absolutely no reason other than they were there (being nonviolent black Labrador Retrievers – not to mention this pisses me off because those are such damn beautiful animals), all because cops were too stupid to look a little deeper into the matter and find out they guy has nothing to do with drugs in the first place. So, of course the cops extended a good, honest apology:

Calvo also learned just how obstinate and unapologetic police and government officials can be, even (or especially) when they're clearly in the wrong. Prince George's County Police Chief Melvin High actually praised his officers' conduct, insisting that if they had to do it again they'd conduct the Calvo raid the same way. "Our investigators went in and showed both restraint and compassion," he told a local TV station.

Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson told a local newspaper that Calvo would get no apology for the slaying of his dogs. Johnson's puzzling explanation: "Well, I think in America that is the apology, when we’re cleared.... At the end of the day, the investigation showed he was not involved. And that's, you know, a pat on the back for everybody involved, I think."

... Or a slap to the face. "Restraint and compassion"? Gee, I wonder what it would've been like if they'd been reckless and cruel. Would they've burned the house down as well? And seriously, what sort of a half-assed explanation was that? Better off saying "Wedidndoit", they might retain more credibility with that.

As it commonly is with these sorts of stories, the incident brought forth a number of similar horror stories:

Within a few weeks of the raid, other victims of botched search warrants in Maryland began contacting Calvo. One couple was raided after their teenage son was found with a small amount of marijuana during a traffic stop. Another elderly couple had their dog shot and killed by Prince George's officers in a mistaken raid. And in Howard County, police broke down a door in front of a 12-year-old girl, battered a man with a police shield, then shot and killed the man's Australian cattle dog. They were looking for someone suspected of stealing a rifle from a police car. The suspect didn't live at the residence.

There were more:

• Eleven days before the raid on Calvo's home, Prince George's police raided the home of a Secret Service agent after receiving a tip that he was distributing steroids. They found no drugs or incriminating evidence.

• In August 2007 police raided the home of a Prince George's County couple to serve an outstanding arrest warrant for their son. The parents were handcuffed at gunpoint. Police later learned that the couple's son had already been in police custody for 12 days.

• In November 2007 Prince George's police raided the wrong home of a couple in Accokeek. Though the couple presented the police with evidence that they were at the wrong address, the police still detained them at gunpoint, refusing even to let them go to the bathroom. The couple asked the police if they could bring their pet boxer in from the backyard. The police refused. Moments later, the police shot and killed the dog.

• In June 2007 police in Annapolis deployed a flash grenade, broke open an apartment door, and kicked a man in the groin during a mistaken drug raid. When they later served the warrant on the correct address, they found no drugs.

Most victims of these mistaken raids experienced the same callousness and indifference from public officials that Calvo did. When police in Montgomery County conducted a mistaken 4 a.m. raid on a Kenyan immigrant and her teenage daughters in 2005, the county offered free movie passes as compensation. When police in Baltimore mistakenly raided the home of 33-year-old Andrew Leonard last May, the city refused to pay for Leonard's door, which was destroyed during the break-in. When Leonard called the city's bulk trash pick-up to come get the door, no one came. Days later, city code inspectors fined Leonard $50 for storing the broken door in his backyard.

How fucking horrible. Did these lunatics really expect to win the women's forgiveness with movie passes? How stupid are these officers, anyway? And fining a guy because the city's own waste management services are too fucking lazy to come pick it up – what in the world ...?

Just last month, Baltimore's ABC affiliate reported on another mistaken raid, and noted that city officials generally make no effort to compensate homeowners when police trash their houses in search of contraband that doesn't turn up. "If you're searching for drugs or unlawful firearms, these things are not left out in plain view on the living room table," City Solicitor George Nilson explained. "You often will have to do some damage to the premises and...the police department doesn't and we don't pay for those kinds of damages."

Of course they won't pay for damages. They're far too busy fucking around, killing innocent beloved pets and ruining lives on false or misinterpreted charges to deign to say "we're sorry", aren't they now.

And now, get a hold of this next reasoning as to why cops don't feel like they should pay for damages they cause on mistaken raids:

Even if the police find nothing, Nilson said, the city has no obligation to pay, because, "it may have been the stuff that you're looking for was there three hours earlier, but somebody got it out of harm's way."

Folks, we officially have our Stupidest. Fucking. Excuse. Ever.

In January 2005, police in Baltimore County conducted a 4:50 a.m. raid on the home of Cheryl Lynn and Charles Noel after finding marijuana seeds and cocaine residue in the family's trash. After taking down the front door and deploying a flash grenade, SWAT officers stormed up the steps and broke open the door to the Noels' bedroom. Because their daughter had been murdered several years earlier, the couple kept a gun near the bed. When the police entered the bedroom, 44-year-old Cheryl Lynn Noel stood with the gun, clad in her nightgown. She was shot and killed by an armor-wearing SWAT officer, who fired from behind a ballistics shield. Police found only a misdemeanor amount of illicit drugs in the home. Shortly after the family filed a civil rights lawsuit in 2006, Baltimore County gave the officer who shot Noel an award for "valor, courage, honor, and bravery."

"Stupid Fucking Trigger-Happy Moron", rather. FTFY. And also, they lost their case (predictably):

In March, a federal jury returned a verdict in favor of the police. The winning argument in the Noel case is a common one—but it's also paradoxical. Police argued both that these volatile, confrontational tactics are necessary to surprise drug suspects—to take them off guard before they have a chance to retaliate, or dispose of the contraband. At the same time, police argued that Cheryl Lynn Noel should have known the armed men storming her home at 5 a.m. were police; therefore she had no right to be holding a gun, and the police had every right to shoot her. Unfortunately, under the law the jury (and the police) was probably correct. The police didn't appear to violate any department policy.

If killing an innocent woman who grabbed a gun to defend her home from an unjust raid in the middle of the night is perfectly excusable under policy, then I think there's a fucking problem with that policy. And again, you gotta revel at just how pathetic these morons are at making excuses. "She shoulda known they were cops"? Of course! Nevermind she just heard lots of banging and incoherent shouting that couldn't have made sense to anyone and grabbed the gun to defend herself against what would obviously have been a home invasion from her point-of-view, and in turn, without even shooting the weapon, was shot down herself. It's the epitome of unfairness.

It's just like that utterly bullshit and ridiculous concept that "you should know the law". I'm not sure what the proper phrasing is; you know, the excuse jurists and such use against someone who broke a law they had no idea even existed, "well, you shoulda known". FUCK that. You can't be expected to read and memorize every fucking law in every fucking book. If you break a law you had no reason to know even existed, it's NOT YOUR FAULT. Imagine that: people (normal people at least) don't go around reading law books for the fun of it.

And all this shit, to keep drugs illegal and off the streets. I don't see how any sane and rational human being can approve the "occasional" (read: disturbingly frequent) battery of innocent suspects, shooting of innocent animals, coercive interrogation and destruction of property – just to keep pot and coke off the streets. THEY'RE ON THE STREETS EVERY FUCKING DAY AND NIGHT. The system is obviously hopelessly broke and should be put to rest, and a new one needs to be implemented post-haste, or these horror stories will simply keep on going, unimpeded and unstopped.

(via The Agitator)


  • uzza

    This is horrifying. But t's a good post. The militarization of the police is possibly the greatest danger facing this country, and that's partly because few people even seem to see it.  Good on you for spreading the word. 

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