Sunday, October 17, 2010

Clueless In Montgomery

Radley Balko linked it: Innocent citizen in Montgomery, AL gets a rude visitation when highly-trained professionals execute a warrant for 812 South Union a no-knock entrance through her door at 810 North Union. Left a mess, too, and so far, not so much as an "Ooops, sorry" from the department, either. They've given themselves until 5 November to complete their internal investigation; no ETA on home repairs on North Union Street. And don't we all feel that much more or less safer?

But wait, there's more! Highly-trained professionals at a Montgomery network affiliated TV station quote the wronged home owner (cut'n'pasted): "It was three tall men with masks on and big oozie guns pointing at me like, "Get on the ground! Get on the ground!"

Not to get too meta -- I'll even overlook the improper use of nested quotes -- but just how much editorial oversight does it take to not guess she might have been referring to Uzi-type guns? Too late now; I'm stuck with the mental image of LEO's wielding dripping-melty short-stocked AR-15s while they open doors and bark commands. (The Dali special edition, perhaps?)

Thank heavens the innocent victim showed good sense in getting her family through a no-knock raid without anyone, or even any pets, being shot; otherwise, I'd have to wonder seriously if there's too much lead in the municipal water supply down there.


Stranger said...

No knock raids get cops killed for no good reason. Radley Balko has had a number of very good articles on police brutality, and the police misconduct site has a daily update.

Yes, a no knock raid keeps small time dealers from flushing the evidence, and perps from exiting by the back door. But which is more important, jugging a pusher; or keeping a cop killed from being killed when a sleepy resident responds to a home invasion?


JC said...

No knock raids also get innocent bystanders killed, and their pets.
But seriously., wrong-address no knocks are a violation of house and home, and should not be swept under the carpet.
With all the bucks spent on assault hardware (rly, do they need tanks?) one would think that GPS units sold at the local shops would be on the list.

WV: culluo - That close, but so ngragh far.....

Montie said...

I have commented at length over at Tam's place about my opinion of no-knock,night-time service warrants.

NK/NT warrants have their place in the police toolbox, but they are waaayyy overused these days. When I started in the cop business 25 years ago, it was extremely rare to be able to get one approved by a judge.

I can count on one hand the number I have applied for and gotten approved. First because I don't like them in that they are dangerous for the police serving them and the suspects on the receiving end. Second, because I just have a problem with such a gross trampling of the 4th Amendment.

But, as I have pointed out at VFTP, when departments spend all that money on training and equipment for a SWAT team, they want to get their money's worth, not just have them around for the occasional barricaded suspect.

I am having a hard time understanding why it will take the Montgomery Police Department so long to investigate this. It is a simple case of: What address were you supposed to search? What address did you breach? Oops, end of internal investigation. Apologize like crazy, pay the lady for physical damages to her property, hand over a reasonable sum for emotional trauma and get a release signed before she takes you to civil court.

If you want to find somebody who can't read an address (dyslexia?)so you can roll a head or two do that after the above.

Roberta X said...

That's kinda what I was thinking-- damage control first, CYA after.

Laughingdog said...

"Yes, a no knock raid keeps small time dealers from flushing the evidence"

You would think cutting off the water would be nearly as effective. If they have little enough that one flush will get rid of it, it seems hard to claim they had enough to be a dealer.

Hell, with the Ryan Frederick case, they did a no-knock, and the alleged drugs were supposed to be in the DETACHED garage. Nevermind the fact that, even were they in the house, you're not fitting pot plants down the toilet.

Matt G said...

"Second, because I just have a problem with such a gross trampling of the 4th Amendment."

Montie, I wonder if you mean that. While I too am critical of No-Knock warrants and their over-use, I don't kid myself that they violate the 4th Amendment by their definition:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

What went wrong here in Montgomery, is that the investigator who sought the warrant was not on scene during the warrant's service. I know of no reputable agency that would do it this way.

It's too easy to simply have the investigator do a drive-by ID of the house with the SWAT commander. Even if he's under deep cover, you just put him in the back seat of a vehicle with dark-tinted windows, and do the drive-by. The tinting in the windows of my patrol car's cage are so dark, I've done lineups with the witness in the back seat, with flashlights pointing in the faces of the suspects.

Nathan said...

No-knock raids in Indiana may become a bit more hairy for the local popo:

"A person has the right to point a firearm at an intruder in his residence until he is able to confirm the intruder's identity and purpose, even during a warrantless intrusion in the middle of the night by persons claiming to be police officers." (Trotter v. State of Indiana, decided 9/10/2010; my emphasis in bold)

Roberta X said...

Doesn't a no-knock on the wrong house violate the 4th Amendment rights of the people who live there?

Additionally -- a no-knock raid is indistinguishable from a home invasion. Do it at my house and someone will die. Probably me, I'm not a tactical operator by a very long ways; but I'll go down with a gun in my hand. In my opinion, that should be the normal response to strangers making "dynamic entry" into one's home. You wanna search my house? Knock on the door, wait for an answer, hand me the warrant and then trash the place. Or accept the consequences. I have.

Nathan said...

Bobbi -- Yes, that's pretty much what both the trial court and the Indiana Court of Appeals said. Trotter's 4th Amendment rights were trampled.

"The trial court properly determined that the officers' warrantless entry into the residence was neither justified by exigent circumstances nor supported by probable cause. Accordingly, the officers' warrantless entry violated the Fourth Amendment."

benEzra said...

The FBI as recently as 1997 pointed out that a major purpose of requiring a warrant was to protect officers and homeowners from cases of mistaken identity.

"The rule serves to protect both the individual citizen and the police from the risk of harm and the potential for violence that may occur as a result of an unannounced entry. Announcement protects officers by ensuring that they are not 'mistaken for prowlers and shot down by a fearful householder.' Innocent citizens also are protected from law enforcement officers who mistakenly might shoot armed occupants who merely are trying to defend themselves from who they preceive to be armed intruders."

Montie said...

Matt G,

Yes, I do mean that. I have applied for NK/NT warrants when it was absolutely necessary for the integrity of a case, but I am very wary of them for exactly the reasons outlined by Bobbie. It is practically indistinguishable from a home invasion by the occupants of the house.

Generally, a dirtbag dope dealer, unless pre-disposed to shoot it out with the cops, is going to be safer to bust in on at 0300 than your average homeowner because he goes to sleep half expecting the cops to breach his door at any moment. But, most people don't and are going to respond with a gun in hand. In the confusion of the moment I don't care how many guys you have yelling "POLICE, GET DOWN!", bad stuff will happen.

when I started in police work in 1985 it was damned hard to convince the average judge of the necessity of obtaining a no-knock, night-time service search warrant. That was for a good reason. They seem to be easier to get these days and are in much more common use.

My biggest concern though is when a wrong address incident such as this one happens in conjunction with a NK/NT warrant. Things can go bad a lot quicker at 0300 than at 1500 when you pop through the door unannounced.

Five or ten years ago I probably wouldn't have used a phrase like "gross trampling of the 4th amendment", but I think I have become more Libertarian as I approach my senior years. I have also, through experience, learned that just because a judge says something is OK doesn't mean that another judge (or panel of judges) down the line will agree.