Police are increasingly using “no knock warrants” to search houses that the court has authorized them to search, according to due process. A no knock warrant is exactly what it sounds like, the police do not knock before breaking down a suspect’s door with a battering ram, and swarming a SWAT team throughout the premises. The excuse for no knock warrants is that it keeps police officers safe. But in the past, police have been shot, and shot at, by home owners who thought criminals were invading their home.
One case was when an veteran with PTSD had his home raided because he had a few pot plants which he used to self medicate. The police did a no knock raid, and maybe it was the PTSD, or maybe it was the fact that he did not hear the cops identify themselves as police (if they even did in fact, the neighbors say they heard no such announcement), but this Marine shot at the intruders, killing one officer and wounding 6. He was charged with murder because “he should have known they were police”; apparently suspected criminals are supposed to have super-powers that allow them to differentiate between violent home invaders, and violent police officers with a warrant. The Marine, whose original “crime” was non-violent and had no victim, killed himself while awaiting trial. Because police decided it was “safer” to perform a no knock search, a cop and a veteran are now dead. Does that sound like they are increasing SWAT raids for the “safety of police”? Oh yeah, there was no evidence found that the veteran was selling the marijuana he grew.
The point of knocking and identifying oneself as a police officer is to give the suspect a chance to surrender to police peacefully, and avoid property damage. It’s one thing to avoid knocking on the doors of suspects wanted for violent crimes, or with a history of violence, but why on earth would these types of SWAT raids take place for non-violent and even victimless crimes? Just the other day a tragedy was barely avoided when police raided a home for suspected credit card fraud. None of the suspects were home at the time, but that doesn’t mean SWAT raids can’t harm innocent bystanders. The subject of the warrant’s son was home, and when he heard the door get kicked in, he unholstered his legally owned firearm, prepared to protect himself. Luckily the police identified themselves, he re-holstered his weapon, and no one got hurt. Oh and the cops didn’t find any evidence of credit card fraud.
Another issue with no knock raids is that criminals have begun to impersonate police in order to gain access to homes, and perform home invasions. What is the public supposed to do when they can’t tell the difference between the cops and the robbers? Unprofessional power hungry cops just exacerbate the problem, since many civilians who have never been on the wrong side of the law find it hard to believe that this roided out thug who just kicked in their door and is yelling “I’ll blow your f****ing head off” is actually an officer of the law.
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Radley Balko identified in his research at least 50 innocent bystanders killed by police in needlessly violent SWAT raids. Some were hit with stray bullets, like 11 year old Alberto Sepulvada; some were shot when police mistook them for a threat, like 92 year old Katherine Johnston; and some died when officers guns “accidentally discharged”, like Eurie Stamps. Innocent civilians are dying because police just can’t help but dress up and play war.
And it is not just anecdotal evidence that shows an increase in SWAT raids. In the 1970′s there were only hundreds of SWAT raids throughout the United States each year, but by the 1980′s that number grew to 3,000 annually. In 2005 there were approximately 50,000 military style SWAT raids by police in the United States. And we know these are not all for violent crimes, because if they were, the Optometrist Sal Culosi wouldn’t be dead after a police bullet pierced his heart during a raid initiated after a cop overheard Culosi wagering on a football game at a bar with some friends.
The bottom line is that these no-knock warrants and SWAT raids needlessly put the public in danger, and police officers in danger. There is no need for this number of no knock raids, nor this number of SWAT style raids. Keep in mind that this entire post is only talking about raids in which warrants have been obtained, and doesn’t even scratch the surface of police home invasion without warrants; also becoming a rampant Fourth Amendment violation in America. Innocent people will continue to die at the hands of police until we take a stand for our rights and refuse to allow police to operate above the law.