Monday, May 17, 2010

SWATing flies with a hammer, and not doing it well.

In the wake of several high-profile incidents in the late '60s and early '70s, culminating in the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, nations around the world began developing specialized military or paramilitary police forces to deal with armed, dangerous terrorist-style threats in the middle of crowded urban spaces filled with innocent bystanders.

Outfits like Germany's GSG-9 or Britain's 22nd SAS Regiment scored high profile successes in Operation Feuerzauber and Operation Nimrod, and by the opening of the 1980s, most large law enforcement agencies had units trained in storming a building to resolve a hostage crisis, from the early pioneers of LAPD SWAT to the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team. And when the LAPD and FBI sneeze, the Anytown Police Department catches a cold. Soon, pretty much any agency that issued badges had some form or another of a SWAT team.

All issues of right and wrong aside for the moment, there are a couple of colossal problems with this situation.

First, a dynamic entry is a complex and dangerous ballet. Friendlies with guns, innocent hostages, and armed bad guys are all packed into a small space. Training to perform this evolution with any degree of safety for all concerned is a full-time job. A high-level tactical team is going to spend all its time practicing so that when it has to go into action, all of this complicated footwork will be executed with the precision of familiar routine. Smaller departments, however, simply don't have the manpower to dedicate officers to this job on a full-time basis, and so their SWAT teams are much more ad hoc affairs, with levels of skill and training varying all over the map.

Secondly, there just aren't that many "Barricaded Armed Suspect With Hostages" callouts in most jurisdictions, and when you have a hammer in your toolbox, you have to start looking for nails to pound.

The net result is that, using various rationalizations from "officer safety" to "preventing the destruction of evidence", tactics and techniques originally developed to allow professionals to resolve a hostage crisis are being used by part-timers, sometimes for reasons as trivial as recovering a bag of dope, often with predictable results.

We need to take a long hard look at why we bought this hammer in the first place.

78 comments:

Bram said...

Detroit SWAT managed to kill a 7-year-old girl over the weekend. I'm sure the police investigating themselves will find that everything went great.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/05/16/year-old-girl-shot-killed-police-search-detroit-home/

RevolverRob said...

""At about this time, the officer's weapon discharged one round which, tragically..."

There are FOUR #$^%&^% RULES. FOUR!! It's NOT THAT HARD!!! Because Detroit SRT can't keep their bugger pickers off the bang switch AND point their guns in a safe direction a little girl died. That's BS! This makes me so angry, I really can't begin to describe.

Actually, one thing that really bugs me about all the tactical teams shows on the tube, is how when you watch, guns are getting pointed everywhere with total disregard for the four rules. I know cops need to point their guns at suspects, but it just borders on ridiculous.

FOUR RULES!

-Rob

AndyJ said...

I have always said that these country bumpkin SWAT teams were useless and more so dangerous to the average citizen. Instead of breaking down doors, massacring pets, children and grandmothers, why don't the police just knock at the door announce the search warrant and wait for the resident to come to the door. But..but..but you say they could flush down the narcotics. So, now you have a narcotics dealer who has no narcotics, the police can search the house in comfort and leave. The narcotics dealer is out the sale money he would have made and will have to buy more product. The police wait a couple of weeks and do it again. No dead dogs, 7 year old children or 80 year old grandmothers dead, and a lot of dope off the street. Seems simple to me.

Bram said...

Well dam, I should follow ALL the links before commenting.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see some stats on just how often shit like this happens as opposed to the intended outcome.

When those numbers were run as to high-speed chases, it was found that more innocents were injured/killed than bad guys (bad as in "I'm holding a bag of weed or I have a VOP and I ain't goin' back to jail, copper!"). So most departments back off pretty quick in congested areas and radio ahead with a BOLO, etc. Because, really, where's he gonna go?

Same thing with the door-busters...if he's in there, he's gotta come out sometime, so let's just wait; it ain't worth shooting some innocent child. Oh, wait, maybe it is because we've got all this cool gear and everything.

Anyway, any of the good Only's that visit here or somebody who loves his research should have the answer: is this kind of crap outcome as common as it seems in relation to the number of SWAT attacks, or does the coverage just make it seem so? And in any case, with very few exceptions, are the results worth it? And again, I ask, where's he gonna go? Why not wait?

AT

Bram said...

AndyJ - It's easier than that.

Just arrest him on the street on as a trafiic stop - then send normal police to search the house at their leisure. The same way David Koresh should have been handled.

Andyj said...

A little addendum to my above.. Why is it that when the cops kill a person in one of these botched "RAIDS" they ALWAYS get off with the excuses "we feared for our lives", "the adrenalin was pumping". or "we thought that he might of had a gun"? And yet when these servants of the peace break into a house in the middle of the night to serve a shop lifting warrant and the owner of the house thinking that burglars are breaking in and he happens to shoot one of these intruders, it is first degree murder. What is the philosophy when the break in warrant meets the castle doctrine??? And why do the public always come in on the short end of the stick in these situations

Lewis said...

All departmental procedures were followed, and while we regret the loss of innocent life, there's nothing to see here, so please move along. (The "or else" is implied, but it's there, oh yeah, it's there.)

To save Shootin' Buddy the trouble, I'll just tell myself to put down the bong and take off the Wookie suit.

Anonymous said...

If the drugs will flush, it's not enough drugs to justify a raid.

For that matter, just turn off the water before entry.

Al T.

taylor said...

I could re-post my comment that I left on a gun board here, but Im just gonna link it in stead.

http://www.hk94.com/hk/topic/28016-detroit-no-knock-gone-wrong/page__view__findpost__p__262682

Forget poor firearms handling, forget poor procedure, and forget politics as it relates to narcotics.

If American law enforcement is trying to set up a situation where people hate the police, then they are doing a damn good job. "The police are the public and the public are the police", or at least that is how it is supposed to be. Never forget, LEOs are outnumbered at BEST 1000:1 against. In many towns and counties (especially rural ones) its more like 5000:1.

If they keep this stuff up, there will be a public backlash, and I dont know about anyone else, but 1000:1 odds suck. Its part of the reason I am no longer on the wrong side of them.

Anonymous said...

OK, so in the one where they 7 yo girl was killed, where were they "looking for a bag of dope". Looks like they really "caught a suspected murderer".
I'm against the SWAT style raids as much as anyone (if not more), but really, it wasn't about looking for a bag of dope.

Anonymous said...

But when you buy dope, aren't you aiding the terrorists? Doesn't that technically make the buyers of said dope terrorists? Just collateral damage in the war on terror, correct?

Bram said...

I understand the need to arrest murderers - so more innocent people aren't killed. Killing an innocent 7-year-old kind of defeats the purpose.

My complaint is the total disregard some of these teams have for everyone's safety except their own. They have traded in their 9mm carbines for full-blown assault rifles - tough shit if you live next door and they start spraying 5.56 rounds. They do little or no research on who else is in the house.

Tough-shit if you are innocent and try to defend yourself. Tough shit if an idiot Rambo wannabe can’t handle a gun. Tough-shit if you react the wrong way to your door being broken down and grenades tossed into your house in the middle of the night.

They simply don’t care that they are storming a house with children in it. This raid was totally unnecessary, lazy, criminally bad police work.

Bram said...

Here is the searchable Cato Raid map. Wrong addresses, bad tips, accidental discharges, etc...

www.cato.org/raidmap

Modesto CA SWAT managed to blast an eleven-year-old boy in the head - in a raid thet yielded nothing except a dead kid.

pax said...

More than one of the news stories about the 7 year old killed in Detroit noted that the officer and an adult female were struggling over the officer's firearm at the time the girl was shot. That's quite a different matter from the all too usual booger hook problem.

And the cops in that raid were after a cold-blooded murderer, not a dime bag.

pax

"There's nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view I hold dear." ~ Daniel Dennett

Anonymous said...

Y'all just need to understand that if the Police DIDN'T have the right to kick down any door and shoot to death anyone found behind that door, crime would be out of control.

John said...

"At about this time, the officer's weapon discharged one round which, tragically"

This really should be phrased:

"At this time, the officer discharged one round from his weapon which tragically"

Unless there was some weird malfunction, the gun didn't just do this itself. A human finger pulled that trigger.

Montie said...

Tam,

As you may know from some of my previous comments, I have been a full-time police officer for 25 years. I had a sick feeling about what I would see when I followed the links you had posted, and I was right. I have to agree about what you have to say about the proliferation of SWAT teams across the country, where every department from the large pioneering departments such as L.A. to the 5 man rural department where everybody plus some of the volunteer reserves is a member of the SWAT team.

When I first got into police work in 1985, many of the larger cities had already formed some sort of special response team. When they are truly professional and have the time to train constantly and are not overused for things like warrant service, etc. they can be a good thing. however, they are only cost effective if you have at least three or four hostage / barracaded suspect calls a year.

The problems begin when they start to be used a lot to justify their existence and the purchase of all those cool toys. I have served a few middle of the night search warrants, but those were only done due to exigent circumstances, without SWAT, and without killing any dogs or kids.

When you break into a house in the middle of the night you should allow for more than a few seconds of response time. If you lose some drugs so be it. One of your commenters was absolutely right about turning off the water. It works great and gives you time to let the occupants get awake, put on some clothes and answer the door without so much worry about "flushing the dope". If there's "lots of dope" they can't flush it all in only one flush, and most people don't have the presence of mind to get much of that done when awakened at 0300 anyway.

There was no excuse for shooting the family dogs inside the house. The dogs did what they are supposed to do, challenge a stranger in the house after dark. I had to shoot a couple of dogs years ago in situations where it was get bitten or shoot (outside in daylight with a clear background), but since OC spray has come into common use, I have never had to shoot a dog. Even fairly vicious dogs can usually be shut down with OC, especially untrained pets.

MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT DYNAMIC ENTRIES SHOULD BE AVOIDED IF AT ALL POSSIBLE. WAY TOO MUCH CAN GO WRONG. That drug warrant should have been done in the daytime. The guy was married with a small child, thank God only the dogs were shot.

As to the shooting of the little girl, I have no words to express my feelings on that one. There was no reason to do a dynamic entry in that case. They could have waited the suspect out.

SWAT teams should only make dynamic entries as a LAST RESORT in the types of scenarios that they were set up for, not for things exemplified by both links.

The dog shooters should be fired and the kid shooter should be fired and charged with manslaughter.

People have been killed in middle of the night dynamic entries AT THE WRONG ADDRESS. Joe Average Citizen is sound asleep and awakened by someone kicking in the door, so he grabs his heater to defend the homestead and is shot dead for "pointing a gun at the police". well, duh! Kick in my door at o-dark-thirty and you'll be met by three large dogs and while you are shooting them, I'll be shooting you with the same cool guns with lights and lasers that you have.

I have said for years that the SWAT concept is getting out of hand, and now that the patrol rifle concept has caught on, I see even less need for "teh ninja popos". Police departments across the country need to re-think what they are doing with SWAT, and get back to the original mission. If you don't have a need for that mission then you don't have a need for a SWAT team. Oh, and ditch the black Nazi ninja gear while you are at it. Go with blue or green, black has too much baggage as a uniform color.

Anonymous said...

pax: At this point there is so much distrust of these raids and the information/coverup that comes after, that there is just no credence to the struggle explanation. And unless that suspected murderer was likely to murder the child in that house, there is just no defending the cops doing it instead. Stake him out and wait him out.

And jumping to conclusions about the actions of the cops might be bad, but is understandable considering the prevalence of similar outcomes, while jumping to conclusions about the opinions, attitudes, and motives of the commenters here as implied in that choice of quote, is bad and indefensible considering the prevalence of intelligent and thoughtful debate at VFTP.

AT

phigmeta said...

"OK, so in the one where they 7 yo girl was killed, where were they "looking for a bag of dope". Looks like they really "caught a suspected murderer".
I'm against the SWAT style raids as much as anyone (if not more), but really, it wasn't about looking for a bag of dope."

Sure they caught a suspected murder .... he was wearing a shirt that said SWAT ... he is the one that killed A 7 YEAR OLD

Anonymous said...

Apparently, because the central Florida town I live in had a hostage situation/nutjob with gun in a Winn Dixie in 1987 (2 cops got popped behind their cruiser doors trying to reload their 6 shot .38s), both my city and the county have mil-surp armored vehicles, Kiowa and Bell helicopters and buttloads of M16 "patrol rifles" Having gone to school with some of these guys and seeing more than a few blasting away at the range in preparation for their annual qualification, I am not at all reassured.

You can see the vehicles here:

http://www.brevardsheriff.com/specialops/swat.htm

http://www.palmbayflorida.org/police/divisions/units.html

Anonymous said...

Wow. Now all we gotta do is clone Montie a couple million times and put that kind of logic, reason, experience, and attitude in command positions at every Only place in the country. Beautifully written too, I might add. Thank you, Sir. AT

Anonymous said...

"The problems begin when they start to be used a lot to justify their existence..."

THAT says it all.

Gmac

Anonymous said...

Now this going to get really interesting - the raid was taped by a 'First 48' camera crew.

Montie said...

Pax,

WTF? I have a lot of questions about the Detroit incident. Even as a cop I can't defend what happened. Why the choice of a dynamic entry? Why was the safety not on if it was a long gun? I have made entries with both MP5's and AR15's with my thumb on the safety and my finger off the trigger. Just like my preferred 1911, the gun won't go bang unless and until I go off safe and pull the trigger and I KNOW it doesn't make more than a few hundredths of a second difference in first shot response time to to the two steps instead of one.

If by chance the cop was keeping his finger off the trigger and the woman managed to pull it in the struggle, being on safe would have precluded an AD. If he was using a Glock or SIG during the entry, well that's why L.A. uses 1911's for their SWAt team.

Overall though, my concern is the proliferation of using dynamic entry tactics for this type of stuff. The dynamic entry tactic began as a LAST RESORT to avoid loss of life in a hostage situation. It has morphed into a TACTIC OF CHOICE for warrants service of all types, and what used to be rare, night-time and no-knock warrants have become commonplace.

In these situation there are too many human variables which cannot be controlled which is why dynamic entries, night-time and no-knock warrants, and SWAT teams as a concept used to be and should still be RARE.

Bram said...

Woops - cops hit the right building but wrong apartment - on tape.


http://www.detnews.com/article/20100517/METRO/5170371/Crime-show--First-48--taped-Detroit-raid-that-led-to-7-year-old-s-death

Kristopher said...

Unfortunate.

The militarization of police, combine with all of the dog shoots and other crap, have tarred SWAT teams so badly that we all just assume the accidental shooting of a child was just some careless yahoo in a ninja-suit.

Which pretty much gets to the root of it.

Federal funds for part-time ninjas is teh bad.

If the department can't support a properly trained and used SWAT, it really shouldn't have one. If that claw hammer ain't in the toolbox, you won't be trying to adjust yer carbs with it.

pax said...

Montie,

Wasn't defending it, just noting inconsistencies in the accounts and apparently unfounded assumptions from some of Tam's commenters. If indeed they were struggling over a department-issued firearm, that is a FAR different problem (though no less tragic) than if the officer simply had poor trigger finger discipline or poor self-control.

Similarly, Tam's righteous rant -- that I completely and 100% agree with! -- about the misuse and overuse of SWAT raids for hyperzealous drug enforcement probably is not best illustrated by referencing a SWAT raid based on a murder warrant. Lord knows it's easy enought to find accounts of equally tragic and horrible outcomes that would have illustrated her point much more accurately.

pax

Montie said...

Pax,

OK, I'll chill out a little. In the last 25 years I have seen police become more and more militarized. Hell, if I wanted to stack up on a stick and kick doors with grenades and full-auto, I could have stayed in the Army.

I do agree that there is a difference in a murder warrant and a drug warrant, and the struggle over the weapon gives me pause, but I still don't agree that a dynamic entry was the way to go. The circumstances that justify that as the tactic of choice have become way too loosely defined.

I'd also like to comment on the fact that every new rookie coming on board now has aspirations of being on the SWAT team when we ask the question "where do you see yourself in two years and five years?" on oral boards (I just conducted one last week). No more "I'd like to make sergeant" or "I'd like to make detective", now it's "I'd like to be on SWAT" or "I'd like to make K9". Maybe it's too much TV, movies or video games.

The thing about most arrest warrants is that time is on the side of the cops. As for drug warrants, I've done my share of those, and daytime is usually the best time. There ARE circumstances where a night-time service is justified. There are even circumstances where a no-knock service is justified. There are even times when using SWAT for those is justified, but you better be damn sure you are right.

I'm just saying that not every situation requires the "special exploding arrow" to be pulled from the quiver. Most times the plain old pointy one will do the job.

Tam said...

pax,

"...probably is not best illustrated by referencing a SWAT raid based on a murder warrant..."

They took a technique devised to bring down a barricaded shooter with hostages and used it to serve a warrant on a probable suspect who had taken no hostages and issued no demands. They took something intended as a last resort and used it as their preferred tactic and, as a direct result of injecting armed men into a situation that had not gone rodeo of its own accord, a little girl is dead.

Suspected murderers were rounded up successfully in this country long before LAPD stood up D Platoon; I am merely suggesting that maybe those ancient techniques should be given a reappraisal in light of events such as this.

Montie said...

Tam,

As usual, great mind think alike :)

Lewis said...

Montie:

First off, amigo, thanks for your service, both in the Army and in the police. (I did four entirely uneventful years in the USMC.) All too often these debates lead to choosing sides, tribal mentalities, us vs. them. It's as important to remember that there's nothing better than a good cop as it is to remember that there's nothing worse than a bad cop.

I entirely agree with your expressed argument. After my initial giggle-snorts about Waco, I stopped and asked myself, "Why didn't they have two U.S. Marshals serve the warrant, in blue blazers and grey slacks?"

SWAT teams are all cool'n'shit. They're just like video games, wheee! Unfortunately, real life is very rarely wheee.

One query about oral boards. Does anyone, in answer to the two and five years questions, ever answer, "I'd like to be out on the street helping people"?

Bram said...

I would suggest an enlistment in the Army of Marine Corps Infantry for any police recruit aspiring to serve in SWAT. Maybe even a try-out for the Rangers, Recon, or SF. Cool guns, ninja suits, face paint - it's great.


Once our candidate gets all the gung-ho out of his system and learns a little wisdom and restraint, we will have a much better "Peace Officer."

Montie said...

Lewis,

I interviewed ONE guy who said that. He had already retired from another department. He has already been a patrol and motorcycle officer, a shift and division commander and a department legal adviser after he got his law degree. I asked him why he wanted to start over again at his age. That was the answer he gave and he was enthusiastic about it! Guess who I voted as MY top pick!

dave said...

Pax, how about a SWAT raid on a murder suspect at the wrong address?

Reading is Fundamental.

pax said...

Tam,

Then that's what your original post should have said, rather than talking about part timers looking for a bag of dope.

KJ

Montie said...

Dave,

Believe it or not, raids on the wrong address are far more common that most departments would like you to believe. I will also say that they are far more likely to have a tragic result. this is because:

The average scumbag criminal goes to sleep at night half expecting the popo to kick down his door before morning, and tends to do one of two things, depending on his criminal activity of choice, which is hide (under bed, in attic, etc.) or head to the bathroom and start flushing when he hears the door coming off the hinges.

John Q. Citizen on the other hand has a gun on the nightstand to pretect himself and his family from criminal home invaders and so when he hears the door coming off the hinges, he grabs his gun and goes to repel borders.

I don't care how loudly you yell "POLICE!" and "GET DOWN", he can't reverse gears quick enough to keep from getting ventilated for having that gun in his hand.

Now, sometimes the badguys decide to shoot it out, but not often and we will often have intelligence as to their disposition for that type of response.

But then sometimes a guy you're looking for on a murder will call the detective's office to see why everybody in the neighborhood says the cops are looking for him and accept your invite to come down and talk about it (true story - my case).

Lewis said...

Montie:

Thanks for the info!

pax said...

Dave,

Reading is indeed fundamental:

Jones claimed the officers had the wrong house, but Godbee said in the statement the 34-year-old suspect in Blake's death was found and arrested at the home.

pax

Anonymous said...

Right building - but they no-knocked BOTH apartments in the 2 family.

dave said...

pax--Anon's correction is correct. Godbee appears to be shading the truth here.

Montie--if it's more common than I think, it's scary indeed. I know full well that the police do their damndest to keep embarrassing facts from reaching the public. Can't say as I blame them--I don't want my faults aired to the world either.

However, the police are accountable to the public which they serve, and coverups which are merely embarassing in the private sector ought to be criminal in the public. Doubly so when innocent people get hurt.

Incidentally, there's a thread over on the OK Shooters board about this. It's hilarious to see the mods over there trying to keep ahead of the posts that embarrass the cops. I posted the text of the Manslaughter 2 law, and it was deleted without comment. Somebody else pointed out that the little girl probably didn't care whether it was an accident or not. Mods didn't care for that comment either.

Seemed relevant to me.

Thread's at http://www.okshooters.com/forums/showthread.php?t=88976 for those who want to watch the show. Reload frequently.

Tam said...

pax,

I probably could have phrased it more clearly, but this is all off the cuff and on the first draft.

I have attempted to edit for clarity.

Montie said...

Dave,

OK shooters? Hmmm, perhaps I shall have to join this forum so I can voice my opinions with shooters in my own state. Hope "teh moderators" don't get too huffy if my opinion runs contrary to theirs, I already saw some posts that I would have to take exception with on the thread you linked to.

Eric said...

May I suggest Radley Balko's Overkill? http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6476

He has done the research on "no knock" raids and the militarization of law enforcement.

Anonymous said...

SWAT teams used to recruit older officers with lots of experiance. They were in no great rush to kick in doors and get into gun battles.

Our local Sheriff nixed the SWAT team idea because it took to much money from the training of the entire department and funneled to a small group. His thought was every member of the department should be able to serve a warrant.

We had one oppertunity for a SWAT unit and WCSD called the KY SP to deal with it. They were fine and talked the perp out after 12 hours.

Gerry

dave said...

OK Shooters thread is now gone. So is every user who said anything unflattering about the police. Not just posts deleted, not just accounts suspended, but if you look at the member list, the users no longer exist.

RevolverRob said...

HOLY BALLS BATMAN. These guys flashbanged the house in the middle of the night, burst down the door, and "struggled" with the grandmother (or maybe they just "collided"), you know like when you "struggle" with a suspect that you want to get on the floor and you smash into them with a football tackle. Which, while your holding your gat with the safety off, booger picker on the trigger, and pointed in an unsafe direction, should be a no-no.

FOUR RULES!!! Regardless of the tactics used, FOUR RULES NEEDED TO BE FOLLOWED AND A LITTLE GIRL WOULDN'T BE DEAD!!!!

I've got to go drink a cold brew now, it's the only thing that's going to keep my blood pressure for spiking and giving me an aneurysm.

-Rob

WV: oideek. OI...Detroit SRT has their deeks in their hands on this one!

staghounds said...

First, they were serving a WARRANT.

You know, a

COMMAND FROM A JUDGE.

I have yet to see a man in a black dress charged, impeached, disbarred, or even sternly talked about over one of these.

(Not making a Nuremberg defence here, but the police aren't issuing these warrants and the Judges have an independent constitutional responsibility here. This helps explain the high level of immunity the COURTS use to protect THEIR MINIONS.)

I've been the (so they tell me) police officers' favourite prosecutor in a smallish southern city for a long time. I've written over a thousand night time and week end warrants, and gone on a bunch of them. We have a VERY GOOD SWAT, they routinely win top five and ten at national competitions.

I, and I believe they, would agree (with Montie and Tam and Pax) on all this.

Part of the problem is that the police are the hammer, and SWAT is the MAGIC hammer. Once a supervisor turns a problem over to SWAT, it's SWAT's problem. SWAT often is asked to serve warrants they did not prepare in cases they did not investigate.

The "last resort not preferred tactic" is at the forefront of our SWAT officers' minds, and OFTEN they find themselves saying "No, you don't need us, do it another way" instead.

You'd be surprised how many Monties are out there.

It's an interesting consequence of our zoo animal/reservation indian treatment of the unsuccessful in our country that urban public assistance customer law enforcement is becoming more and more of a counterinsurgency fight. To policy makers, a few dead seven year olds in the projects are really no big deal anyway, she was just going to grow up and breed more welfare brats. Those policy matters are far above the Captains and Lieutenants who directly run the policing, just as they are above the same army ranks in Afghanistan.

They are placed in a position where they are no longer part of the public, but overseers of the public. No longer Peel's police, but Bonaparte's Gendarmes.

And many of the posters above hint at the same projection problem that the "If you have a gun, you will want to kill people" trouser wetters do.

dave said...

No, staghounds, they were not serving a warrant.

The judge commanded them to break into the OTHER SIDE of the duplex. If they had done so, they would have been serving a warrant. When they battered their way into an address not listed on the warrant, they ceased to be acting within the scope of their authority. Whether it was negligent or deliberate doesn't change the fact that it wasn't authorized.

Strictly speaking, it was B&E (they broke in with no authority to do so), but I doubt if you could find a prosecutor with the stones to actually hold them accountable for that, let alone the manslaughter.

Otherwise, I wholly agree with you. Tam hit the nail squarely on the head (all puns intended), so I don't think I need to keep driving it home (hisssssss).

Anonymous said...

Since it's been mentioned that this little excursion/incursion was being taped for teevee, the question begs an answer:

To what degree do these reality shows in general affect the decisions/actions being taken? And if this particular doorbuster is shown to be at all influenced by the desire of the agency involved to give good action video when other methods would otherwise have been employed, what might be the liability/culpability of the agency and the producers? If the pressure is on to utilize the shiny new hammers, imagine the urgency to do it while film's a rollin'.

AT

Montie said...

Staghounds,

An arrest warrant is indeed a command from a judge, but the judge does not command how you shall accomplish the task of obtaining the person that you are commanded to bring before a magistrate. A search warrant on the other hand gives you permission to violate somebody's right to be secure in their person, papers or dwelling in the further interest of justice, so it PERMITS you to do something, rather than COMMANDS it.

Every SWAT officer that I know who works for the major departments in the metro area (and I know a few), is a top notch cop, usually in superb physical condition and possessed of exceptional policing skills. They are very dedicated, and my criticism was not for them, but for the decision-making process that has morphed over the years since SWAT first came into being.

Dynamic entry techniques have become a commonplace way of doing business. There is an argument to be made for officer safety and I have heard most of them. Don't get me wrong. It has its place in the police bag of tricks, but it's not the ONLY trick we have at our disposal.

Like you, I too have heard SWAT officers say "You don't need SWAT, you need a couple of uniforms to get that done", but the mindset of "cost justification" unfortunately often overrides commonsense. It is precisely the serving of "somebody elses warrant" that can result in wrong address mistakes and the like.

Middle of the night dynamic entries have become a favorite method of some departments, a setting which can bring everything that can go wrong all together at once. At one time, at least around here, it was very difficult to get a judge to approve a search warrant for service at night, not so much anymore.

while I was supporting Tam's premise that if all you have is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail, I do understand your comparison to sheeple arguments about having a gun means that eventually you will shoot someone.

However, SWAT teams are being used for a lot of things which could be handled in a way that might result in less scenarios like the two used for example in Tam's post. Like you say though, such decisions are usually made way above my pay grade.

Anonymous said...

staghounds said: "many of the posters above hint at the same projection problem that the "If you have a gun, you will want to kill people" trouser wetters do."

I'll call bullshit on that one right now...show me one damn example of that "projection" in this thread...you can't do it because it's not there; I just re-read every comment.

What is there is what is true, and what Tam said at the outset: it's not that *having* a gun/hammer irresistibly induces its use, but *having a gun/hammer that will be snatched away if you don't prove you need it* might. See the difference?

I've seen enough commentary from both you and pax to respect your views, but the implication from both of you of a more righteous perception of this issue than the other equally perceptive commenters here -and our esteemed hostess herself-, is insulting and just plain wrong.

AT

staghounds said...

"the decision-making process that has morphed over the years since SWAT first came into being" is the whole point.

Actually my projection argument was unclear- what I MEANT was to show a similarity between the way anti gunners suggest that peaceful gun owners are all crazy psychos says more about the crazy psycho state of the asserter than it does about the peaceful gun owner.

Similarly, "The cops are all crazy Barney Fifes with ninja outfits who want to herd us all into camps and shoot us for smoking weed!!!" says something about the person saying it, since it's manifestly untrue.

And blood dancing is wrong no matter who does it.

As to command/ permit, the way that's considered may vary from state to state, I spoke for mine. Officers here can't just blow off a search warrant, for obvious reasons.

People act as though this is some sort of binary universe of police officers and people in the house being entered. The voting public, policy makers, the criminals, and the victims all have a piece of how things got this way and how it can be fixed.

And yes- if they went into the wrong place, they may or may not be immune. I don't know Mi. law.

staghounds said...

I'm not saying my view is more righteous- actually given my history it may be more suspect! But heated rhetoric brings us no closer to the truth.

Anonymous 7.26, you must have missed "idiot Rambo wannabe".

Some more projection examples from above- if you believe that these comments describe a substantial amount of American police officers' thinking, then I'd submit you are wrong :

tough shit if you live next door and they start spraying 5.56 rounds. They do little or no research on who else is in the house.

Tough-shit if you are innocent and try to defend yourself. Tough shit if an idiot Rambo wannabe can’t handle a gun. Tough-shit if you react the wrong way to your door being broken down and grenades tossed into your house in the middle of the night.

They simply don’t care that they are storming a house with children in it. This raid was totally unnecessary, lazy, criminally bad police work.

Oh, wait, maybe it is because we've got all this cool gear and everything.

when these servants of the peace break into a house in the middle of the night to serve a shop lifting warrant

Just collateral damage in the war on terror, correct?

Anonymous said...

"Oh, wait, maybe it is because we've got all this cool gear and everything." That was my comment and I'll stand by it; it's right in line with the "use it or lose it" point of my calling you on your comparison of commenters here with anti-2A pants pissers...which btw is an especially ironic insult considering this particular venue.

And even the other examples you mention have a justifiable basis, and every one, if a bit coarse in presentation, is a description of actual occurrences.

If all of the SWAT units, their command, and their methods, were as pure and professional as you indicate, then the epidemic of "incidents" like the one at point here wouldn't be happening, and we wouldn't be having this discussion, would we?

Al Terego (AT)

Mr.B said...

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/05/17/ri-school-district-agrees-rehire-fired-teachers/?test=latestnews

New updates:

Supposedly, the videotape disputes the officers version of the incident with the little girl.

They fired FROM THE PORCH
.........BEFORE ENTERING.

If true, then this was murder.

Bram said...

Mr. B - Nobody has seen the video yet but you may right.
http://detnews.com/article/20100517/METRO/5170374/Fieger--Video-challenges-police-account-in-fatal-shooting

Staghound - I have no idea what your point is or what part of "tough shit" you are disputing. The deaths of innocents far outnumber the fired or convicted cops.

Mr.B said...

Whoops!, try this link:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37191818/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/?GT1=43001

Greg in Allston said...

Idiotic bastards and ignorant tools.

RC said...

I don't care how loudly you yell "POLICE!" and "GET DOWN", he can't reverse gears quick enough to keep from getting ventilated for having that gun in his hand.

Not to mention that anyone can yell "POLICE! GET DOWN!" Simply because someone has yelled that doesn't mean they are actually police. There have been a few cases that I've heard of where the criminals pretend they are the police while busting down a door, on the chance that it causes the homeowner to hesitate long enough for the criminal to either capture or kill them.

Which means that the homeowner is caught in a dillemma: obey the commands and hope to god they really are the police, or assume they are criminals and continue attacking. The fact that these raids often happen at night make this a harder decision, since it's dark and the officers are likely shining lights in the homeowner's eyes, effectively blinding them and rendering them unable to see any badges or insignia.

Armed Texan said...

At best Officer Itchy Finger, negligently broke rules 2 and 3. At worst, he thought that a 7 year old girl was a threat and was deliberately pointing his cool new SWAT toy at her while breaking rule 3. The difference between either scenario is the difference between manslaughter and homicide. "Following departmental procedure" should not be an affirmative defense to either.

loren said...

I wonder how many crimes cops got away with when the video wasn't there? At least with crims you know where they stand and can deal with it. What can you do with cops? Hope for the best? If only cops were just there to serve and protect the whims of the politicians and judges. It's when they become a law unto themselves and all the rest of us are just members from the other tribe.
My one brief encounter in this kind of situation was meeting a cop (on an innocent mission) at the top of my stairs at 2 in the morning with my Ruger in hand. I set it down quickly, but if he had pulled his weapon out I'de have put one through his adams apple.

Matt G said...

Light to heat ratio is a bit lacking, here.

Seems like, when people are excited, it's hard to make informed choices about best methods. A large department like Detroit would do well to have a special response unit. When serving a murder warrant on a shooter, it might be a good idea to have such a unit on scene.

How to serve the warrant should be a question of scene, time, background of the location, background of the princple subjects, and resources.

A little girl was killed, and something needs to change. That said, throwing the baby out with the bathwater seems a bit foolish.

As noted by Tam, a SWAT team is a tool. It can be used correctly, or misused. To claim that it is wrong to have simply on the face of it sounds very much like the arguments of the hoplophobes that argue that guns shouldn't be owned because their only purpose is to kill.

Tam said...

Matt,

"As noted by Tam, a SWAT team is a tool. It can be used correctly, or misused."

I am really beginning to wonder how I feel about the idea of part time/ad hoc SWAT.

Would I sit in a shoot house as a hostage while Podunk PD SWAT stacked on the door? Hellz no.

Bram said...

I used to cross-train with a part-time regional SWAT Team when I was in the National Guard. All the ones I met were former Army & Marine Infantry types - hopefully got the Rambo out of their systems.

They were pretty good at dynamic entry. Actually taught us how to enter WITHOUT killing everyone (the way I was taught in Marine Infantry School).

The nice thing about the set-up, they are hardly ever used. It's not a big drain for any one department so there is no mayor or chief worried about losing funding.

I've seen them in action once, for a hostage situtation. Never for dime-bag warrant stuff.

Anonymous said...

"To claim that it is wrong to have (SWAT) simply on the face of it sounds very much like the arguments of the hoplophobes that argue that guns shouldn't be owned because their only purpose is to kill."

Another dumbass, insulting comment from an unexpected source in an inappropriate venue and context.

The comparison of the attitude that free individuals should be preemptively stripped of the means to protect themselves, to a real and demonstrably justified concern that the pressured employment of military tactics by government agents to avoid loss of funding and impress bureaucrats and audiences beyond irresponsible. Forget the blue line shit, Matt G; re-read Montie's comments above and learn from what he says.

Hoplophobic? No, it's coplophobic...guess which one has more basis in fact?

AT

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Officers here can't just blow off a search warrant, for obvious reasons."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it usually the cops who have to ask the judge for the search warrant in the first place? The judge doesn't just write search warrants because he feels like it - someone has to ask for one first, as part of an investigation.

If the cops don't think they need to search a home, they won't ask for a search warrant. They're not going to ask for one and then just blow it off.

Will said...

Bram:
One of the reasons SWAT is moving to the .223 is that it appears to have LESS penetrative ability on walls than 9mm does. The last 9mm incident I read about had a ND from a fumbled Glock go through two houses (# of walls not stated). I've no personal experience with .223 and walls, but have seen the result of steel core .308 and house walls. The round exited the first wall in two pieces, and only fragments exited the second (the exterior) wall. Some lead smears on an adjacent angled exterior wall, and a slight dent in a wood slat fence were found outside. Since the .223 is a more fragile and unstable bullet than .308, I think a correlation could be inferred as to .223/wall performance.

Anonymous said...

Jake,

The cops who ask for the warrant may not be the cops who serve the warrant.

In many cases the information included in the warrant comes from informants who embellish the amount of drugs, weapons and ferocity of the suspect. The informants has to produce for either money or to attempt to get a lighter sentencing when he/she ends up in court on thier own case.

So a SWAT team gets Intel that the guy sleeps with a loaded AK, has kilo of dope and has stated he won't be taken alive. Turns out grandpa sells nickel bags of pot for running around money.

Gerry

Michael said...

Rule Three Violation - Maybe Not: Police who carried out a raid on a family home that left a 7-year-old girl dead over the weekend were accompanied by a camera crew for a reality television show, and an attorney says video of the siege contradicts the police account of what happened... Police have said officers threw a flash grenade through the first-floor window of the two-family home, and that an officer's gun discharged, killing the girl, during a struggle or after colliding with the girl's grandmother inside the home. But Fieger said the video shows an officer lobbing the grenade and then shooting into the home from the porch...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/17/AR2010051700703.html?sub=AR

ErnestThing said...

4.56 SWAT raids PER DAY.

Matt G said...

"Forget the blue line shit, Matt G; re-read Montie's comments above and learn from what he says."

First, I'm a pretty harsh critic of stupid cop tricks. I don't have a thin blue line to follow-- I have an ethical one to follow. I happen to be pretty good at looking at both sides of the coin. Or so I've been told.

Second, I read Montie's comments. Like where he said:

"Dynamic entry techniques have become a commonplace way of doing business. There is an argument to be made for officer safety and I have heard most of them. Don't get me wrong. It has its place in the police bag of tricks, but it's not the ONLY trick we have at our disposal."

Funny thing-- I disagree with the first half of this comment, and agree with the second half. I've NEVER, in 10 years, called for a dynamic entry on any warrant that I've written. I've never even seen one served, personally. So much for commonplace.

I've practiced dynamic entry (for first responder active shooter situation training), and it's hard. Not impossible. Not even something that I would have to practice every day. But something that I would want to practice with a team of guys that I trusted, if I knew that I were to have to do it. I know of two SWAT teams that work in my area, and they hold Tac certs in addition to their regular duties. They get together and practice two to four times a month. Most of 'em seem to know their stuff, from what I can see. If you HAVE to send in a group of guys to a high-risk environment, I want to send them, because they work together on those entries a helluva lot more than I do. They're not going to freeze in the stack, blocking their buddy in the Fatal Funnel. That takes repetition, as a group.

Everytime our local tac teams get called out, it's overtime for half or more of the team. The brass don't like calling them out. There's scrutiny. There's potential backlash.

I'm not saying that there's not an on-going problem, but I'm saying that it's a shame to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There's a legitemate tool to be used, and your piling on and calling names doesn't make this fact un-true.

Anonymous said...

"There's a legitemate (sic) tool to be used, and your piling on and calling names doesn't make this fact un-true."

Nowhere did I say otherwise...it is misuse and overuse that is at issue, and your own (non)experience notwithstanding, the case in point and the stats provided in the comment above yours show why.

As to name-calling, it was your comment and not you the man that was termed "dumbass", and you will note that it was in response to your hoplophobe epithet. I am aware of your thoughtful and evenhanded approach to discussions of police work and firearms handling, which is why I said your statement was unexpected, insulting and uncalled for in this environment.

"Don't draw yours and I won't draw mine"...I've always liked that tag-line of yours; if it had been applied in Detroit, that kid would still be alive and the b.g. would still be in jail. And if it had been applied in a virtual sense to your commentary, I wouldn't have responded negatively in-kind.

It is events like the Detroit story that result in a compounded negative connotation and erosion of support for police work in general and encourages the growth of the very real concept that I termed Coplophobia even among law-and-order types. That is a very bad thing for us all, as our promiscuous and pc culture and a dearth of personal responsibility encourages lawlessness and the victimization of innocents. We need strong enforcement to counter this trend, and we certainly don't need to add fuel to the perception of necessary day-to-day police work as Government Agencies Using Military Tactics against our own citizens. And to the degree that these tactics are as rarely needed as you say, justifying their existence and cost is pretty difficult for most departments. If that is throwing out the baby with the bathwater, maybe some tarbabies just can't be cleaned up and made presentable.

Thank you for your service, Matt...God bless and keep you and the rest of us safe from harm.

Al Terego

Matt G said...

If my cool was ever gotten on this thread, it was in the embarrassment at my misspelling of the word "legitimate." Oof.

I had said, "To claim that it is wrong to have simply on the face of it sounds very much like the arguments of the hoplophobes that argue that guns shouldn't be owned because their only purpose is to kill."

"Hoplophobia" is the fear of Things. The tool that a SWAT team represents is thing. I stand by my statement that fear of a thing rather than how it's used is similar to what the hoplophobes say. If we're parsing statements, I pointed at the argument was similar to theirs, not that those making the argument were hoplophobes.

You asked me to look at Montie's comments. He said that the dynamic entry is commonplace (it's not, in my own experience), which is bad, but that it still has its place in a cop's bag of tricks.

"Another dumbass, insulting comment from an unexpected source in an inappropriate venue and context."

Please direct me to those which would be appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Wikipedia, verbatim:

"Hoplophobia , from the Greek hoplon, or weapon, is defined as the "fear of firearms" or alternatively, an irrational fear of weapons in general, and describes a specific phobia."

Alipedia, as meant here:

"Coplophobia, from the slang cop, is defined as the "fear of police" or alternatively, an irrational fear of police activity in general, and describes a specific fear of the abuse, misuse or overuse of force in the line of duty.

You are being intentionally obtuse. If you actually believe that the particular crowd that gathers at the "venue" of Tamara's porch is "appropriately" analogous to the crowd that would deny *individual* means to defend from threats (including those operating under auspices of .gov), then I withdraw my former high regard for your opinion.

Because a tool's a tool, yes? Regardless of cost and all that that implies, regardless of need which you say is nearly nonexistent, regardless of the opinions of those who are purportedly served and pay all the bills and who in this learned forum are fairly universally against, we want our badass paramilitary toys...I mean tools.

Keep on feeding that second definition above, that's what this society really needs; more distrust and disdain for a necessary evil.

What a "tool". And yes, this time I'm name-calling.

AT

staghounds said...

"Would I sit in a shoot house as a hostage while Podunk PD SWAT stacked on the door? Hellz no."

Don't blame you. I've been killed four times in practice, as a hostage/bystander.

Matt G said...

"You are being intentionally obtuse."

To an extent. The analogy breaks down when we express sentient beings as equivalent to dead tools. However, my point was that the existence of a group to be used is to be considered as a tool.

Note that I'm more simile-driven in my comments here, than metaphor.

I'll close with my reiteration that there's more heat than light here.

Anonymous said...

"...more heat than light here..."

And in that shoot house Tam mentioned...

Still, some contrition is better than none.

AT