Posts tagged SWAT

State of Siege

Monday Lazy Linking

Licentious policing

The SWAT Team Would Like to See Your Alcohol Permit. Radley Balko: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts. (2010-12-13):

In August a team of heavily armed Orange County, Florida, sheriff’s deputies raided several black- and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Orlando area. There were more raids in September and October. According to the Orlando Sentinel, barbers and customers were held at gunpoint, some in handcuffs, while police turned the shops...

You may have been aware that government professional-licensing regulations are routinely used to burn out competition and protect the financial interests of politically-connected businessmen. What you may not have known is that, besides being used to uphold state capitalism, they are also now frequently used to uphold a police state, and allow hyperviolent SWAT raids against licensed businesses, without even the pretense of a warrant.

Do you feel secure in your person, house, papers and effects?

Balko notes that, "at least in the 4th Circuit," the Fourth Amendment doesn't prevent the government from sending a SWAT team to make sure your beer is labeled correctly." I of course could not care less whether or not these completely unrestrained hyperviolent stormtrooper raids, conducted at the pleasure of government police against innocent people's hang-outs and places of business, are or are not authorized by the Constitution. Either the Fourth Amendment allows them, or it can demonstrably do nothing to prevent them. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

The Police Beat

  • Last month AOL News ran an anecdotal Data-less Trend Story about city governments in small towns firing the city government police force in order to cope with budget crunches.[1] I’d like to know what the actual data here is; typically, cash-strapped city governments react by cutting everything except police and jails. If governments’ financing crises are finally leading them to reduce the number of police patrolling city streets, that’s surprisingly good news. Most of the towns mentioned are very small towns — with populations ranging from about 700 to 4,500. The outlier, Maywood, California, has about 30,000 people living in the town (with a whopping 4 murders in 2008! twice the national average!). Apparently part of the reason they fired the police department was because a lot of the city government’s $450,000 budget deficit, and its trouble securing insurance, came from lawsuits, many involving the police. Government employees and hangers-on are going nuts about all of this. After the vote in Maywood, ex-City Treasurer Lizeth Sandoval told the city council You single-handedly destroyed the city, by which she means that they outsourced the city government. (You won’t find any burned-out buildings, torn-up streets, or dead bodies; the places and people in the city of Maywood, California are still right where they were, going on as happily as they were before; the only things destroyed were the government jobs of tax-eaters like City Treasurer Lizeth Sandoval.) Jim Pasco, national executive director of the Fraternal Order of Pigs, said that decisions to fire local police were penny wise and pound foolish, because sheriff’s departments and state police will be spread thin patrolling larger areas, and no amount is too much to spend on city cops, because The absolute threshold responsibility of a government at any level is to ensure the safety of its citizens.

  • For example, consider local hero Officer Bryan Yant, liar and killer for the Las Vegas Metro police department, who by making up lies to obtain fraudulent search warrants and by violently breaking into citizens’ homes late at night, where he ensures the safety of Las Vegas’s citizens by kicking down doors and shooting unarmed black men with his AR-15 assault rifle, based on furtive motions and a glimmer or something shiny that nobody but Officer Bryan Yant ever saw, and which is plainly contradicted by forensic evidence related to the angle of the shot. Local government in Las Vegas has fulfilled is threshold responsibility by once again[2] ensuring the safety of Officer Bryan Yant from any legal consequences for shooting innocent, unarmed men in the head during a hyperviolent raid to investigate a completely nonviolent, victimless crime, all of it based on demonstrable falsehoods and mistaken identity — oops! my bad! All of which should free Officer Bryan Yant up for a fourth Internal Investigation, in which his government colleagues will once again either exonerate him or let him off without any criminal penalties, for lying and fabricating fictitious search and arrest warrants in at least one other drug investigation involving another hyperviolent late night home raid. The polite term in local media for Officer Bryan Yant’s work ensuring the safety of Las Vegas citizens is sloppy. A better term would be fraudulent and lethally violent. How much safer does it make you feel that this lying, killing 4-time winner is still a fully-paid member of the Las Vegas Metro police force?

  • Meanwhile, in El Reno, Oklahoma, government police officers are ensuring the safety of El Reno citizens by forcing their way into an 86-year-old bed-ridden grandmother’s home on a wellness check, and then, if she should object to 10 armed strangers busting into her house, by stepping on her oxygen hose and torturing her with electrical shocks in her own bed, until she passes out from the pain. El Reno Police Chief Ken Brown justified this use of extreme violence against an elderly woman who could not possibly have physically harmed anybody more than a couple feet away from her on the grounds that she was holding a kitchen knife, and she told officers She was in control of her life. Thus, Police were forced [sic!] to use a Taser on the woman until she could be forced into a hospital psychoprison — not because she was actually charged with any crime, of course, but so that she could be cured of her deranged and dangerous belief that she was in control of her own life.

  • Meanwhile, in New York, New York, Officer Patrick Pogan, a government police officer working for the New York city government, ensured the safety of New York citizens by body-slamming an unarmed bicyclist to the ground for trying to avoid hitting him, and then lying about it in his police reports, where he claimed that his victim was trying to ram into him, rather than swerving around him. His government colleague Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley, in turn, fulfilled his threshold obligation by ensuring that this lying violent thug would face absolutely no criminal consequences whatsoever for the crimes that he had been convicted of.

  • Also, in New York, New York, government cop Detective Louis J. Eppolito ensured the safety of New York citizens by taking a second job as an informant and hit-man for the Luchese crime family. He took a special interest in ensuring the safety of Brian Gibbs by framing him for murder — among other things, making up fictional witness statements, threatening witnesses in order to get testimony against Gibbs, withholding evidence that would have proven Gibbs’s evidence, and torturing Gibbs himself until he extracted a false confession. Brian Gibbs lost 19 years of his life locked in prison. The New York Police Department spent years fulfilling its threshold obligation to keep Detective Louis J. Eppolito safe from any consequences for his violent crimes, even though — years before he tortured and framed Brian Gibbs — they had direct evidence that he was working for the Mafia (including having his fingerprints on police reports he had handed off to a fellow gangster). The Incident was, of course, Internally Investigated, and Detective Eppolito was let off without even facing any administrative disciplinary actions. Which freed him up to go on murdering and imprisoning innocent people for the mob. The city government in New York still officially maintains that Brian Gibbs is guilty of murder. However, they’ve decided to sign a $9,900,000 settlement; dedicated public servants that they are, they will send the bill to innocent New York City taxpayers who had nothing to do with the crimes committed against Brian Gibbs.

  • Meanwhile, in Sebastian County, Arkansas, government drug investigators are ensuring the safety of citizens by staging heavily armed, late-night raids on citizens’ houses, where they threaten the lives of everyone in the house, including sleeping babies — without bothering to check the address on the mailbox to see whether they are actually even forcing their way into the right house. (Oops! My bad!) Then, after releasing their innocent victims from the shackles they had forced them into, the cops they went down the street to the right house, where they broke into somebody else’s home, threatened three other innocent people’s lives, and forced them into cages at gunpoint, for the completely nonviolent offense of having marijuana.

  • Meanwhile, in Universal City, Texas, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by surrounding innocent women and children in their cars, pointing guns at them and screaming at them to put their hands up, and then forcing their way into the car before they realize — oops! our bad! — that they had the wrong car and the wrong people, and were threatening the lives of a black woman with three children who had nothing to do with the white man they were trying to ambush. Since government police never face any consequences whatsoever for their fuck-ups, no matter how high-stakes, violent, reckless, traumatic or dangerous to the safety of innocent citizens, the police department is waving it off as an unfortunate coincidence. They refer to the use of such high-stakes, violent tactics in uncertain situations, with incomplete information, to terrify and overwhelm innocent women and children, as doing our jobs, and publicly state that We would not change what we did. Of course they wouldn’t; who’s going to make them?

  • Meanwhile, in Tavares, Florida, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by interrogating and then arresting Latina women who are not suspected of any crime, for not giving her name fast enough or producing identification papers on demand. The government police officer told his victim that she had to provide ID because he needed to put her name in a database. When she said she needed to go to the car to get it, the cop arrested her for resisting arrest and had her locked in a jail cell for 5 hours.

  • Meanwhile, in Hamilton, Ontario, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by staging hyperviolent drug raids, forcing their way into apartments at gunpoint, forcing the citizens in them to the floor, then slamming their faces into the floor and kicking them when they try to explain that the cops have the wrong address. Po Lo Hay’s safety was ensured so good and hard that he ended up with stitches above his eye, a bloody nose, welts, and a broken rib.

  • Meanwhile, in Bridgewater, England, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by threatening them with electrical torture devices and then accidentally hitting them with a 50,000 volt electric shock to their genitals, in the course of an unnecessary traffic stop intended to investigate whether or not they were committing the completely nonviolent offense of driving without government-mandated corporate car insurance. For accidentally inflicting the worst pain that this innocent man has ever been subjected to in his life, government cops are offering an Oops! Our bad!

I sure am glad that government cops are out there to ensure our safety, and local governments are there to extract tax dollars to force us all, on threat of prison, to pay for this threshold obligation. If government cops weren’t there to harass, threaten, torture, frame, jail or kill innocent citizens, all with complete legal impunity so long as they can shout an Oops! My bad! that some fellow cop or other government employee will believe, who would keep us all safe?

  1. [1] When city governments fire police forces, county sheriffs or state police forces generally take over the busting of heads and jailing of suspects. But the shift does mean that patrol cops are fewer and farther between, and local taxpayers are much less likely to get soaked with local tax increases to pay for salaries or benefits packages.
  2. [2] Yant has gunned down three people during his police career — killing two of them, including Trevon Cole — and has been exonerated by the police department and the Clark County government’s coroner’s inquest.

Lethal force

(Via Tennessee Guerrilla Women 2010-05-17 and @InjusticeNews.)

By now you’ve probably seen the video of the SWAT stormtrooper raid in Columbia, Missouri, during which a gang of heavily-armed cops violently stormed a house in order to serve a search warrant on a suspected possible nonviolent marijuana user. Turned out that his partner and 7 year old child were also there at the time; so were their two dogs, which the cops went ahead to shoot and kill. After murdering pets, they repeatedly lied about their actions to neighbors and the press, and the story has only come out because the video has been released on the Internet. In any case, if you haven’t read it, Radley Balko’s commentary on the story is mostly right on.

In Tulsa County, Oklahoma, a government police SWAT team on another hyperviolent warrant-serving drug-search shot an nearly deaf biker named Russell Doza at least seven times in the back while he awoke from sleeping in a bed in the clubhouse. They were supposedly storming the clubhouse early in the morning in order to serve a warrant for the victimless crime of selling marijuana and methamphetamines. They didn’t actually find any drugs in the clubhouse, and they didn’t find any of the suspects named in the warrant, but they did find Russell Doza, so three cops — Deputy Lance Ramsey, Corporal Tom Helm, and Sergeant Shane Rhames — shot him in the back, in one arm, and at least twice, point blank, in the back of his head. The cops claim he reached for a gun and just somehow got shot in the back of the head at close range. Even if he did reach for a gun, the cops created the violent confrontation in the first place by storming a private club for no just reason at all, in a failed attempt to discover evidence of a crime that never had any victims to begin with. I have no particular reason to believe that the Deppities are telling the truth, but even if they are, they murdered Russell Doza.

Aiyana Jones

In Detroit, a government police SWAT team on another hyperviolent warrant-serving raid killed a 7 year old girl named Aiyana Jones by shooting her in the neck while she slept on the sofa, in her family’s living room, in their hosue on Lillibridge St. on the east side of Detroit. The SWAT team tstormed the house in the middle of the night in order to serve a warrant for a murder suspect. Who, in press releases after the storming of the house and the killing of Aiyana Jones, was indeed found in the location, within the scope of our search warrant. Except the problem is that the house is a duplex and they got a warrant for the home of a completely innocent family, without bothering to figure out where the fugitive was, and even though they had every reason to be aware that there were children living in the house that they planned to mount a high-risk hyperviolent raid on. They neglected to mention that the house they killed Aiyana Jones in was not the house where they arrested their Suspect Individual; when they got there, the door wasn’t even locked. But the cops were on film, being followed around by a camera crew for A&E’s murder-cop reality action show, The First 48. So what better opportunity to show their stuff? They swarmed the front porch, hurled a flash-bang grenade through the plate-glass window into the living room, and then Officer Joe Weekley, a frequent guest star on several A&E cop shows, shot off his gun and put a bullet into Aiyana Jones’s neck.[1] According to the initial excuses from the police, there was a tussle — no, strike that, there was some sort of contact [sic] between Officer Joe Weekley, and Aiyana’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones. According to the current police story, while the heavily-armed, professional police Officer Joe Weekley was courageously contacting a 46 year old woman who was confused and upset by a bunch of heavily armed strangers blowing up a grenade in her living room in the middle of the night right next to her sleeping granddaughter and storming into her house, somehow, in a Terrible Tragedy, the gun just discharged, somehow or another, in the midst of all the contact. After shooting her granddaughter to death, police wouldn’t say whether or not Mertilla Jones would be charged with assaulting a police officer.

According to the family, the cops are lying. Geoffrey Fieger, a well-known civil rights lawyer in Detroit, has taken on the family’s case, and says that he has a tape which clearly shows the cops shooting blindly into the house from out on the porch, moments after the grenade blew up. I don’t know which is telling the truth, although I will say that the cops have obfuscated, revised, evaded and lied from the start in this case, in a consistent attempt to deny responsibility and create a false appearance of urgency. I have no particular reason to believe that they are telling the truth about this, either, whereas I do have some reason to believe that Fieger probably has the video he says that he has. All that said, it really doesn’t matter what the video shows, or doesn’t. If the cops burned a little girl to hell with an incendiary grenade and then shot her in the neck, accidentally, while storming into a house they had no reason and no right to be in, in order to serve a warrant for a man who wasn’t there, because they couldn’t be bothered to exercise the caution necessary to pick the right unit of the duplex, or to work out some way of catching a suspect whose location they already knew other than a hyperviolent middle-of-the-night paramilitary raid, then they still fucking murdered that little girl. They introduced violence into the situation; they chose a hyperviolent confrontational method which they knew would be endangering the lives of a house full of completely innocent people; if you or I stormed two different apartments on the theory that a dangerous man might be in one of them, hurled explosives, ran around with guns drawn, and we accidentally killed a child in the process, then you or I would be locked up immediately, indicted shortly thereafter, and thrown in prison for years. Because the unhinged maniac who shot a little girl happens to have a badge and a uniform, the shooter has been given a paid vacation from their job. Boss Cop Detroit Police Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee gave a press conference in which he solemnly announced how Very Sorry he was that police just had to gun down a 7-year-old girl in her own home, because of the risk to their sacred hides when Entering a Potentially Dangerous Situation. He wants you to know that this is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude, and that This is every parent’s worst nightmare. It’s also every police officer’s nightmare. I can’t tell you what I think of that, because there aren’t any words that are dirty enough.

In a follow-up post on the Columbia, Missouri raid, Radley Balko posted a letter from a government soldier who took umbrade at his watch-word of police militarization, because the rules of engagement SWAT teams operate under are, in some ways, even looser than those used by counterinsurgency soldiers trying to kill enemy guerrillas in Afghanistan. Balko seriously wonders whether SWAT teams are now more militarized than the military. I’m not convinced, unless the in some ways is doing so much work as to make the statement meaningless. [2] But the mere fact that the comparison might seem plausible is telling. And outrageous. But not at all surprising. How could it be, when every week brings Yet Another Isolated Incident, and when Terrible Tragedy after Terrible Tragedy shows SWAT teams once again storming houses and clubs for no reason other than to protect the investigation of the most utterly trivial and nonviolent offenses, when they consistently use maximal force and freely open fire, even when they know that they may well be in completely the wrong house, even when they have every reason to know that they’re putting children’s lives in danger, and when they brutalize, beat and murder innocent people, over and over again, all with more or less explicit legal guarantees of complete impunity, and the lockstep backing of their departments and their colleagues throughout the government’s criminal system?

Do you feel safer now?

  1. [1] When he’s not shooting 7 year old girls and showing off SWAT tactics on live victims for television audiences, Officer Joe Weekley also drives a tank (Armored Personnel Carrier, sorry) for the Detroit SWAT team.
  2. [2] The process of storming a house in a war zone may offer more opportunities to surrender before escalating the situation to violence; but SWAT teams aren’t firing missiles into apartment complexes from robot aircraft… yet.