For some unknown reason, I believe television is intentionally trying to desensitize us to doors being broken down or smashed in by DEA, FBI, BATF, or specialized police units, like SWAT – usually unannounced and often without warrants or authorization.
At times episodes depict wrong residences being broken into or excessive force being used. Sometimes it appears that when they are going after the bad guys these law enforcement individuals act very irresponsibly and the excessive force they use increases the risk of death or injury to those sometimes referred to as collateral damage – a term I find repulsive.
I believe these depictions on television crime shows are intentionally being scripted in an effort to make us believe these new methods are perfectly acceptable and are the new norm instead of the exception and that we should accept these procedures without protesting in any way shape or form. To that, I say hogwash…
We are told, almost daily, that since 9/11, everything has changed. One thing that appears to have changed is our gradual loss of individual rights.
I have read frequently on various sites, especially on sites that specialize in citizen´s rights, where U. S. citizens are complaining at an alarming rate of their rights being violated even though their complaints are not getting much fanfare via conventional national media. At all hours of the night doors are being battered down, and police are going from room to room yelling “clear” as they search each room. The residents, in most cases, have no idea who has broken into their apartment or home. I personally do not find the word “clear” to be synonymous with “we are the police and we have a warrant”.
In 2009 Berwyn Heights, Maryland Mayor Cheye Calvo filed a civil rights lawsuit against his county police department after its SWAT team raided Calvo’s house and his two black Labrador retrievers were shot and killed by the invading SWAT officers. The mayor said he is helping to expose a more widespread pattern of law enforcement carelessness and callousness throughout the state of Maryland.
The police never checked ahead of time or they would have known it was the mayor´s residence. In addition to his dogs being killed, the mayor and his mother-in-law were handcuffed for several hours and they were questioned at gunpoint.
Many police departments use a risk assessment form and if the “risk” is above a certain number, then the so-called “marines”, i.e. swat teams are sent in versus regular patrol officers. I wonder if police departments fudge the numbers to calculate a higher risk assessment number to justify “SWAT” being called in just because it reduces the risk of conventional patrol officers being injured or killed? The problem is that it increases the risk of “collateral damage”, be it pets, kids, or spouses – not to mention that “SWAT” does not know the neighborhood as do patrol officers who are very knowledgeable of the terrain.
In my opinion, breaking down the wrong door and throwing in smoke grenades goes beyond the pale. Some departments abuse their power and residents are afraid to complain afterwards for fear of reprisal.
In one case in Maryland, after knocking down the door and breaking into the wrong residence with guns pulled, the police tried to appease the residents by returning the next day and giving the shocked residents free movie tickets. Wow, where can I get on a list to be violated like that just to get movie tickets? I love going to movie theaters but that is one scary way to get free tickets.
What happened to the “old” firm knock at the door and police loudly insisting that residents open the door?
Sure, it give the bad guys, assuming that the police are actually at the correct residence, time to prepare and to arm themselves but it is imperative that laws be followed and law enforcement check and recheck the search warrant against the property address to insure they are at the correct residence – not only that but it is imperative that the informant´s information be verified.
Instead of simply battering down the door, the residence can be surrounded and if police are concerned with being shot through the door, they can even dial the residence phone from their vehicle or even use a loud speaker and advise those inside that they need to open the door and come out with their arms up in the air.
I am aware that there are instances where there is imminent danger of someone being killed inside and expedience is required – but that is the exception versus the norm – even though the television script writers try very hard to make us think every warrant being served requires deadly force and in all cases it is appropriate to batter down the doors and go in with guns blazing.
The norm is becoming – break down the door without any announcement and enter with guns drawn preparing to shoot anything that moves and just for the hell of it toss in a smoke grenade. This is scary.
Maybe this is all right for television but it surely is not right for most real life situations – especially in a country where citizens appear to still have rights – especially, as a minimum, the right to defend oneself.
We are a country where individuals have the right to bear arms and protect themselves, their family and their property from the bad guys. If someone breaks down your door and does not announce himself, you have the inalienable right to defend yourself with deadly force – especially if you believe your life is in imminent danger.
The real issue here is when police do not announce themselves and use excessive force at the wrong residence it is highly possible an innocent resident could be killed trying to defend himself against what he perceives to be a case of illegal breaking and entering.
One other major factor that has not been discussed as of yet is the fact that SWAT and federal law enforcement agencies use very sophisticated, powerful, and high velocity weapons – weapons capable of going through many walls – walls shared by other apartments or townhomes – increasing the possibility of collateral damage. Conventional law enforcement can use bullets that can still disable or even kill suspects but are not capable of traveling through many walls.
I believe, as a minimum, states, cities, and towns need to pass laws with sufficient teeth to punish all law enforcement officials that either break the law or use excessive force – especially when gross errors take place, such as initiating an assault on the wrong residence.
Also, if states, cities and towns can be sued for pain and suffering in these cases, then these jurisdictions will learn to keep these law enforcement units acting within the letter of the law.
Please keep in mind that law enforcement has a multitude of local, state, and federal resources at their fingertips to research all aspects of each planned assault and they also use the element of surprise to their advantage. Because of this it is imperative that they get the preliminaries absolutely correct to minimize mistakes.
A final note to all law enforcement officers: If you want your citizens to support your actions, including serving “no knock” warrants, get your facts correct, check and double-check your plan and implement your plan utilizing the absolute minimum force to fit the mission – and most importantly, remember that collateral damage is neither justified – nor condoned.