Thursday, October 28, 2010

Longview SWAT team raids wrong home

Radley Balko called it "another isolated incident": In Longview, a SWAT team broke down the door of the wrong home last week in an apparent no-knock raid. The News Journal reported that "officers apparently were distracted by 'known suspects' in front of a home." The real targets were next door - alleged drug dealers who were arrested later the same evening without incident, so clearly in this case SWAT wasn't necessary to capture the actual suspects. In an editorial yesterday, the local paper declared that "local officials could do themselves — and taxpayers — a favor by inviting an outside, totally unbiased agency to come in and do their own investigation."

As Balko wrote in the executive summary to a white paper for the CATO Institute on the subject in 2006:
These increasingly frequent raids, 40,000 per year by one estimate, are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they're sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers. These raids bring unnecessary violence and provocation to nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom were guilty of only misdemeanors. The raids terrorize innocents when police mistakenly target the wrong residence. And they have resulted in dozens of needless deaths and injuries, not only of drug offenders, but also of police officers, children, bystanders, and innocent suspects.  
One of the key recommendations in that CATO white paper was to "Return SWAT Policing to Its Original Function—defusing those rare, emergency situations in which a suspect presents an immediate threat to someone’s life or safety. SWAT teams should not be executing search or arrest warrants, conducting routine police patrols, or engaging in similarly proactive police work. SWAT teams should never be used to serve search warrants on drug offenders with no history of violence." I couldn't agree more.

SWAT teams were originally inspired after the Charles Whitman UT-Tower shootings here in Austin, but increasingly they're used for execution of routine arrest warrants instead of intervening in already violent situations, initiating violence instead of quelling it. Here's an interview with Mr. Balko from earlier this year lamenting the unnecessary trend toward SWAT teams' overuse.


23 comments:

Anonymous said...

but but but grits, How would we ever conduct our wars on terror, drugs, sex offenders, jay walkers, littering without our heavily armed paramilitary SWAT organizations?

All kidding aside, what about Special Weapons And Tactics immediately brings to mind the need to serve warrants at the end of a battering ram. Sure have members on call to assist if they feel that such is warranted, but let the regular police do their jobs if it is a regular situation.

As for this cited raid. i wonder how much coke or meth the ones that were supposed to get arrested flushed before they were finally taken into custody?

King Would said...

I agree that military style SWAT raids are over-used - but that's not to say that such units are unnecessary. Recall the incident that put the trend in overdrive - the North Hollywood shoot-out in 1997. Common sense should prevail - the use of paramilitary tactics should be closely controlled and used only when necessary.

Anonymous said...

Nope, never said they do not have a place. And I will agree with your cited incident in North Hollywood, the robbers were definitely armed for bear that day. So yes, that is a perfect example of a need for these highly specialized law enforcement personnel.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:59, please note I did not call for their abolition. I agreed with Balko that they should only be deployed to defuse "those rare, emergency situations in which a suspect presents an immediate threat to someone’s life or safety."

Anonymous said...

Glad I live in a wealthy white neighborhood in Dallas where the coppers still respect the status quo and keep that Jim Crow war on drugs bs where its intended, the minority and poor neighborhoods.

Don said...

And does every little city like Longview need one? Lubbock Swat Team got a surplus tank from the government. Used it somehow in an operation involving a despondent husband who set some clothes and furniture ablaze on his front yard a few years ago. You may remember the incident. Nobody in the house except the "perp", and all he had was an unloaded rifle I guess he was eventually going to load and shoot himself with. So they surrounded the house, (yes, surrounded) and "accidentally" opened fire. Really. Sprayed the neighborhood with about 400 rounds, killing one of their own, Kevin Cox, in the process. Now the PD's shooting range is named appropriately "Kevin Cox Memorial Training Facility". Look it up. You can't make shit like this up.

rodsmith said...

personally i think ANYONE busting down doors unannounced deserve anything but a BULLET to the empty head they have. I dont' CARE WHAT clothing they have on.

The ONLY excpetion to this would be a hostage situation.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the people who run meth labs are armed? I wonder if those who manufacture and use meth are a bit paranoid and trigger happy. I wonder if those who stockpile, sell and use coke/crack are armed and a bit paranoid as well as trigger happy.

I wonder if a gang hangout would have a dozen or fifty weapons. I wonder why cops show up in SWAT gear.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I wonder that too, 3:44. If you believe that's the case, that's a good argument for waiting until they come out of the house and arresting them instead of breaking down the door and risking a shootout, or worse, entering the wrong house and shooting an innocent person (e.g., like Kathryn Johnston) who's rightfully defending their home under the Castle Doctrine.

OTOH, I'm willing to bet that if you tallied up all the drug arrests that occur in Texas and identified in how many of those cases drug dealers shot at officers, the number is de minimis - far below 1%. Given the volume of drug arrests, if that weren't the case police on-the-job death rates would certainly be much higher.

Anonymous said...

The problem here is not the SWAT team, or the training or their equipment. A SWAT team is trained to prevail and believe me as citizens, we want them to prevail in a deadly sitiuation. The problem is poor supervision, poor intelligence and a poor overall investigation. As a poilce officer, and riot team member there is no excuse for raiding the wrong house other than a poor investigation. There is also usually no excuse for shooting a dog use pepper spray it works extremely well on dogs, except pit bulls which most drug dealers do use to protect their product due to the dog's natural drive to fight and not quit.

Now as for using a SWAT team for drug raids, it should not be standard operating procedure, but used as needed. This comes back to intelligence. I have been in drug houses and the users of drugs are usually not armed, however the dealers small and large are extremely well armed. Guns go hand in hand with drugs, it is part of the drug dealing culture. If you don't believe me watch a rap video, these dealers idol themselves after these rappers. I have seen glock handguns, shotguns and ak-47 rifles inside dealer homes. These individuals are extremely parinoid of being robbed by other dealers. Therefore, SWAT officers must be well armed and protected in bullet resistant gear.

This all comes back to common sense and supervision.

Anonymous said...

What is quite unusual is the number of agencies that have a SWAT team. This responsibility should be relegated to an institution that can properly train and equip such a force. This would certainly not include a Constable's office. But with all the terror hype we have I expect there will be more such units coming into existence instead of fizzling.

Anonymous said...

Are you telling me that the people living next door didn’t know that was a drug house? That drug house should have been burned to the ground by the honest citizens in the neighborhood.

God bless those SWAT officers. They should have tactical nuclear weapons too.

Don said...

Anon: 8:01 You can't be serious. Tell us you're just jacking with us.

Anonymous said...

8:01 when was the last time you burned down a drug house? Or are you just another hypocritical loudmouth who doesn't practice what they preach?

Anonymous said...

It's just unfathomable to me how they can get the address wrong if they have sufficient surveillance to justify a no-knock warrant in the first place. I think the testosterone hype that SWAT teams operate under is becoming increasingly dangerous for bystanders and non-violent offenders. But, the officers are increasingly putting themselves in greater danger.

Because I live in a rural setting 25 minutes from town, I know full well that if someone kicks my door in during the night, they are coming to do my family some serious harm. There can be no other reason. And, I know there is a strong likelihood that there will be more than one of them. I am well-prepared to deal with such a threat, and so are my neighbors. I pray to God that it never happens. I also pray that if it's the local sheriff's dept, they have sense enough to call first, because I will see them long before they see me. I won't be able to read embroidered caps and patches on jackets under cover of night, and I won't take the time to try. And, I won't give away my position by first calling out: "Halt - identify yourselves." They walked or drove through a gate and two "no trespassing" signs to get here, and they are carrying guns. That's all I need to know.

Soronel Haetir said...

The 'problem" (from a police department point of view) with reserving SWAT for situations that are already underway is that you then have to keep guys ready and just sitting around. By having them serve warrants and stuff they are still unavailable but at least now they are out doing something. And saying "we'll just call guys in from the field when something bad happens" isn't a good answer from a PD management standpoint either, as that will likely add at least another hour (time to get the folks loose from whatever they are currently involved with, time to return to a station to get outfitted, time to get to wherever the bad thing is happening). So, no, don't expect such units to sit around idle any time soon.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

In other words, Soronel, once they create them they feel the need to use them to justify their existence even when they're unnecessary, is that the argument?

That's BS when even community college PDs and constables have SWAT teams. Plus, the same folks can serve warrants without gearing up, busting down doors, etc., if the problem is just finding something for them to do. I don't buy it.

Angee said...

SWAT Teams were also part of the operation to steal 450+ children from the FLDS. That entire incident was one of the biggest wrongs I have ever seen.

R. Shackleford said...

We gave every little pissant copshop the latitude to hire and maintain their very own SWAT teams. It should come as no surprise that this is what they immediately did. Also, you've got these guys sitting around, all gunned up and thinking they're some bad mf's, with NOTHING to do, of course Chief Podunk is gonna send them out to flex in situations where it isn't really justified. Give the law an inch, and it takes ten miles. Usually to the detriment of the citizens it's supposed to 'serve and protect'. Case in point, the so-called Patriot Act.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't a judge have to sign a warrant before they can do anything?

Anonymous said...

Some of the people in the crack and meth houses are as wacked out and dangerous as Charlie Sheen.

"A delusional Charlie Sheen smoked cocaine before he trashed a hotel suite, a shocking new report says.

As his porn star date, Capri Anderson, cowered naked inside a locked bathroom, Sheen inflicted $7,000 in damage on his 18th-floor suite at The Plaza hotel.

After the "Major League" bad boy and Anderson, 22, returned to his suite, they smoked cocaine, Radaronline said.

Sheen then flew into an incoherent rage when the bisexual Bronx-raised beauty refused to have sex with him until she got $12,000, the report said.

He began tossing furniture around the suite, and by the time cops were called to the hotel, Sheen was naked and frothing, police sources said.

Oh, those Hollywood liberals!

Anonymous said...

Charlie Sheen is a victim. This is an anti-government blog. The entertainment blog is down the web.

Hook Em Horns said...

The police LOVE there "toys." It's time to take the military style uniforms, armored cars and grenade launchers away from Andy and Barney and give them back to the military.