Thursday, April 06, 2006

Radley Balko, of The Agitator, has a piece over at Slate on the phenomenon of no-knock raids:

As the name indicates, a "no-knock" raid occurs when police forcibly enter a private residence without first knocking and announcing that they're the police. The tactic is appropriate in a few limited situations, such as when hostages or fugitives are involved, or where the suspect poses an immediate threat to community safety. But increasingly, this highly confrontational tactic is being used in less volatile situations, most commonly to serve routine search warrants for illegal drugs.

These raids are often launched on tips from notoriously unreliable confidential informants. Rubber-stamp judges, dicey informants, and aggressive policing have thus given rise to the countless examples of "wrong door" raids we read about in the news. In fact, there's a disturbingly long list of completely innocent people who've been killed in "wrong door" raids, including New York City worker Alberta Spruill, Boston minister Accelyne Williams, and a Mexican immigrant in Denver named Ismael Mena.

[snip...]

In fact, in many places the [requirement to announce before forcing entry] is now treated more like an antiquated ritual than compliance with a suspect's constitutional rights. In 1999, for example, the assistant police chief of El Monte, Calif., explained his department's preferred procedure to the Los Angeles Times: "We do bang on the door and make an announcement—'It's the police'—but it kind of runs together. If you're sitting on the couch, it would be difficult to get to the door before they knock it down."

That comment came in a story about a mistaken raid in which Mario Paz, an innocent man, was shot dead by a raiding SWAT team when he mistook them for criminal intruders and reached for a gun to defend himself.


This doesn't seem like a particularly reasonable (and thus constitutional) excercise of police power. If someone breaks into your house at three in the morning without announcing themselves, you're not going to wait to make sure it's not a cop before you try to defend yourself and family. Something, somewhere, is terribly wrong. If only the court hadn't defenestrated the Castle Doctrine...

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home