Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Professionals At Work

Sometimes the video is all you need.
This is something of a me-too.  Radley Balko posted it.  So did Robert Guest.  And Scott Greenfield.  Frankly, there's not much to add to the video itself: A SWAT team executing (if you'll excuse the term) a warrant on a home in Missouri.
A couple of weeks ago, I quoted this passage, written by Justice Antonin (head buried in the sand) Scalia, from the majority opinion in Hudson v. Michigan.
Another development over the past half-century that deters civil-rights violations is the increasing professionalism of police forces, including a new emphasis on internal police discipline. Even as long ago as 1980 we felt it proper to "assume" that unlawful police behavior would "be dealt with appropriately" by the authorities, United States v. Payner, 447 U. S. 727, 733-734, n. 5 (1980), but we now have increasing evidence that police forces across the United States take the constitutional rights of citizens seriously. There have been "wide-ranging reforms in the education, training, and supervision of police officers." S. Walker, Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice 1950-1990, p. 51 (1993). Numerous sources are now available to teach officers and their supervisors what is required of them under this Court's cases, how to respect constitutional guarantees in various situations, and how to craft an effective regime for internal discipline. See, e.g., D. Waksman & D. Goodman, The Search and Seizure Handbook (2d ed. 2006); A. Stone & S. DeLuca, Police Administration: An Introduction (2d ed. 1994); E. Thibault, L. Lynch, & R. McBridge, Proactive Police Management (4th ed. 1998). Failure to teach and enforce constitutional requirements exposes municipalities to financial liability. See Canton v. Harris, 489 U. S. 378, 388 (1989). Moreover, modern police forces are staffed with professionals; it is not credible to assert that internal discipline, which can limit successful careers, will not have a deterrent effect. There is also evidence that the increasing use of various forms of citizen review can enhance police accountability.
Here we see that "increasing professionalism."
The cops acted properly.  They got their warrant.  They went after the miscreants.  Did their job.  Smashed down the door, shot the family dog, terrorized the family and the kids, busted the parents for misdemeanor pot possession - and for endangering the welfare of the kids.
Saving the future, one dead dog at a time.
The kids, no doubt, are grateful for the fine work the cops did protecting their sensibilities.
Once again the question: Isn't it time to stop doing this stuff?
God Bless us, every one.


  1. I wonder if some sort of a statutory liability system could be created for instances like this?

  2. I disagree that there's not much to add to the video. Hudson instantly came to mind after seeing this (well not instantly--it took a while before I could feel feelings again) and the section you quoted frames the issue perfectly. The Court's exclusionary cases, especially, tend to reveal just how the Justices view the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment cases that come before them through two vastly different lenses. It's not too much of an embellishment to say the majority and dissent in Hudson boil down to "But they're bad!" and "But what about when they're not?" In fact, there's no need to embellish. After all, this is Justice Scalia we're talking about. After tossing himself two softballs up in the air--extreme hypos where application of the exclusionary rule would seem most undesireable--and deftly knocking them out of the park, he finally stops holding back and lays his true feelings out there: "Many would regard these violated rights as more significant than the right not to be intruded upon in one's nightclothes..."

    The disdain oozes like blood from a Corgi with seven bullets in it.

  3. I love the way you make it sound as if the Police are the ones who initiated that circumstances that transpired in this residence. I'm pretty sure you have never attempted to secure a search warrant for somebody's home so I will explain the manner in which they are issued.

    Through either information received from informants or citizens, or through surveillance, the Police begin an investigation of alleged misconduct. In this case the misconduct was the illegal use/possession/selling of drugs. Now the Police will utilize several investigative measures to establish probable cause for the search warrant affidavit. Once the search warrant is signed by the Judge, the Police are then commanded to serve the warrant.

    Now, making entry into someone's residence against their will is very dangerous. You get an idea of what you will encounter, but you never really know how the people inside the residence will respond. This goes for family pets also. Once the front door was opened and the Police began securing the residence they were confronted by a dog. They don't know this animal or it's mannerisms. The dog was shot in this instance, which makes me feel for the dog and the children. The children don't understand why the Police did this, and they will probably grow up with some level of dislike for Police. The dog was just doing what dogs do...protecting their family.

    The real blame for this whole traumatic incident rests with the adult male and female at this residence. It is their fault that the Police were at their residence serving a search warrant for their illegal behavior. If they would not have sold/possessed/used illegal drugs, or allowed the substance into their residence around their children or pets, then this would not have happened.

    In this society where the current fad is not assigning blame to anyone for any of their actions, I applaud you for taking a stance and assigning blame to somebody. You have grown as a person. Now you will just have to work on assigning it to the right person/people.

  4. @anonymous LEO:

    Now granted, nobody here is necessarily applauding anything that happened during this arrest by any means, but I don't think we're assigning blame to the people you think we're assigning blame to. As Gamso points out, the police here were obviously executing a warrant--they did their job. And even though I framed my point with a case about a violation of knock and announce, where here they did follow that protocol, my frustration was directed at the Court, not the police.

    I think most of us are disgusted because we've created a system where police officers have to react to perceived danger by opening fire in a home with children--children the system then tried to remove from the home--all just to get a conviction for simple possession. And this is how the system works when everyone is pretty much playing by the rules!

    That was my interpretation of Gamso's question: "Isn't it time to stop doing this stuff?"

    Put another way: everybody here did their job--does that make this a success?

  5. I'm not particularly interested in being the one to assign blame. There's plenty to go around.

    Of course the residents shouldn't have had misdemeanor amounts of marijuana. That's a crime, and people shouldn't break the law. But if that's all they had, it's a pretty minor crime. And one that a whole lot of people think shouldn't be a crime at all. That doesn't make it OK to do, but it does suggest that something is out of whack here. And that what happened is out of proportion - way out of proportion - to any underlying wrong.

    So maybe the CI or the surveillance or the investigation wasn't as accurate as whoever swore out the affidavit to get a warrant thought. Or maybe the affidavit didn't really offer probable cause but the magistrate signed the warrant anyway. Or maybe it was all good and the mass quantities of drugs were just too well hidden or had just been sold or hell, I don't know.

    But if I were assigning blame, I'd start by blaming our legislators and executives and judges who believe that (1) we need to have a "war on drugs," and (2) collateral damage in the war on drugs is just an unfortunate by-product of that war and so we don't need to do anything much to reduce the chances.

    And you know, I could live with it, very comfortably, if the courts said that it is an unreasonable action, and therefore unconstitutional, to execute a search warrant by SWAT team without first ensuring that there are no children present. And no pets. And no people who aren't truly bad guys. Of course, that would likely put SWAT teams out of business. I could probably live with that, too.

  6. @Anonymous: The whole "it's a dangerous job, give them a break" line of reasoning, which is so prevalent in cases such as this coming from buffoons such as yourself, is an insult both to the family that was terrorized and to competent law enforcement personnel. Professional police do exist (though sadly they may be a minority) who are capable of handling the stress of their job without resorting to terrorizing the populace. If officers are so frightened in conducting their job that they resort to using excessive force, they'd ought to find a new line of work and leave the difficult job of being a police officer to those who can handle it.