12 June, 2007

"I would not want to be taken prisoner by people who entertain themselves by burning puppies to death."

That's a quote from this post at Classical Values.

I have to agree with it and will go quite a bit further. I have been following Balko's tracking of these incidents and the tragedies related to SWAT raids for quite some time but they had become numbing to me.

Like a lot of blog topics you see it over and over again until interest wains. Of course in this case that reaction is horrible. These are human beings (and in the dogs case humans property [and friends]) that are being killed or harmed in these false or stupidly incorrect raids. Unfortunately I was pretty numb to them. I would check Balko out periodically but what can you really do?

This weekend I saw something that woke me up to it again (at least for a little while) I was watching a COPS type show on the Dallas SWAT team and what I saw appalled me. The show was glorifying it and clearly playing up the "hero" factor but I saw a bunch of nearly juvenile thugs. There were three raids in the show for all three put together they must have gotten almost a pound of marijuana and a dozen or so crack rocks. To clear the obviously massive amount of illicit material from the streets they literally pulled the side of two houses off and destroyed the doors and windows of the third. The tear gassed and held children (3 to 7 year olds) at gun point and clubbed clearly disoriented (but not resisting) people of many ages.

I'll admit they found some drugs in each house but the amount in each case makes me believe it is far more likely that it was the family's teen that had it than any trafficking.

So these people's houses were destroyed, the children traumatized, the parents beaten, machine guns shoved into their heads, professional lives probably ruined (can you imagine explaining why you need time off for something like this) because their teenager had a few cigarettes worth of illegal drugs.

The culmination of the show was them using a .50 cal rifle to take out the engine block of a hijacked semi. This one was a little bit closer to acceptable to me because of the fact that there was definitely an armed and dangerous person on board but I couldn't help but thinking this was a needless action. Where was the semi going to go to? It couldn't possibly outrun the police and it was being driven by a sane person (even though she was at gun point). Which is more likely to make the hijacker freak out and kill the driver? Running out of gas after a 4 hour cooling down time or being shot at with a .50 cal sniper rifle from the back of an armored personnel carrier? Well? At least they didn't shoot her dog when it jumped out of the cab.

Don't get me wrong I am all for police being able to defend themselves and even aggressively pursuing potential culprits. I am not a drug legalization freak either. They are increadably harmful (even weed) and need to stay illegal. I think that police need to be given a great amount of leeway in how they deal with threats. I also think they need to do everything in their power to deescalate and there has to be some accountability. This is triply true in the case of mistaken identity.

In my job I can get fired and in the case of SoX possibly sent to jail for unknowingly making a mistake. Are you telling me a demonstrably innocent person can get killed and the police involved don't get any scrutiny at all? Or only a few days suspension. I am sorry that is just unacceptable.

I am also of the opinion that it isn't always directly the officer's fault. Someone running the department created the environment where these things can happen. In the case of accidental deaths in forced entry of the wrong address the police chief should be at least as culpable as the CEO of a mismanaged company.

This is just wrong.

No comments: