Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Can you tell the difference between this account and a police state?

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Radley Balko has a good column:

A harrowing investigation from my colleagues at The Post:

Sallie Taylor was sitting in her apartment in Northeast Washington one evening in January 2015 watching “Bible Talk” when her clock fell off the wall and broke. She turned and looked up. Nine D.C. police officers smashed through her door, a shotgun was pointed at her face and she was ordered to the floor.

“They came in like Rambo,” said Taylor, a soft-spoken 63-year-old grandmother who was dressed in a white nightgown and said she has never had even a speeding ticket.

The heavily armed squad thought they were searching the residence of a woman arrested two miles away the previous night for carrying a half-ounce vial of PCP.

Taylor, who did not know the woman, was terrified. Trembling, she told police that the woman did not live there. Officers spent 30 minutes searching the house anyway, going through her boxes and her underwear drawer. They found no drugs and left without making an arrest.

The search warrant executed at Taylor’s apartment cited no evidence of criminal activity there. Instead, in an affidavit to a judge, police argued that they should be able to search for drugs there based on their “training and experience” investigating the drug trade. They relied on an address they found in a court-records system for the woman arrested with PCP.

A Washington Post review of 2,000 warrants served by D.C. police between January 2013 and January 2015 found that 284 — about 14 percent — shared the characteristics of the one executed at Taylor’s apartment. In every case, after arresting someone on the street for possession of drugs or a weapon, police invoked their training and experience to justify a search of a residence without observing criminal activity there. The language of the warrants gave officers broad leeway to search for drugs and guns in areas saturated by them and to seize phones, computers and personal records.

In about 60 percent of the 284 cases, police executing the warrants found illegal items, ranging from drug paraphernalia to guns, The Post found. The amounts of drugs recovered were usually small, ranging from residue to marijuana cigarettes to rocks of cocaine. About 40 percent of the time — in 115 cases — police left empty-handed.

The investigation found that nearly all such raids are conducted on black residents. D.C. police chief Kathy Lanier told the Post that D.C. police got few complaints about warrant service. That isn’t surprising.  The people on the receiving end of these raids often feel terrorized, intimidated, and frightened. They don’t typically have access to an attorney or have enough standing in the community to be taken seriously. And the few who did try to complain were mostly ignored.

Lanier also said that the police department doesn’t distinguish between warrants based solely on an officers “experience and training” and warrants based on more substantive evidence. Given the volatility and potential for tragic error in these raids, that’s a pretty striking admission. The Post investigation found damaged and destroyed property, guns pointed at children, and bullet-riddled dogs.

And it isn’t just for “hard” drugs like PCP. Shandalyn Harrison had her house raided by 20 officers, she told The Post, after they pulled over her ex-boyfriend “for having an obstructed license plate and found five ounces of marijuana, a misdemeanor.” Police “got an address for him in Northwest from his suspended D.C. driver’s license and a utility listing from December 2012, according to the affidavit. But the house was rented to Harrison, and she said she had previously told police that he had never lived there.” During the raid:

Harrison’s 11-year-old daughter was taking a shower when an officer pushed aside the curtain and pointed a gun at her, according to the mother and daughter. Police also held Harrison’s 21-year-old brother, Sterling, at gunpoint, Harrison and Sterling said.

“What they did was not right,” Harrison said. “I work hard to take care of my daughters and to protect them and raise them right, but they treated us like we committed a crime.”

The Post also found examples of people who had difficulty getting the city to compensate them for damage police officers did during these raids, even when it was clear they had raided the wrong home.

Of course, none of this is particularly new. Violent home raids for drugs or weapons based on little or no evidence have been a staple of the modern  “war on drugs” going back to the Nixon years. Here, for example, is a passage from an early draft of my book (it was later cut in the editing process):

James Bigelow, a retired lieutenant with the Washington, D.C. Metro Police Department, awoke early one cold, February morning to the sound of his doorbell and a knock at the door. That was quickly followed by the sound of a sledgehammer smashing into the same door. As he and his wife ran downstairs, they were met by a team of narcotics agents—and their guns. Bigelow, 58 at the time, had a brother who was a former deputy police chief in D.C. His son was still a police officer with the department. Somehow, the cops had still managed to mistakenly raid his home.

Bigelow and his wife sat at gunpoint while police ransacked their home. They found nothing. They didn’t bother fixing the front door, which they had knocked clean off its frame.

At about the same time — 5 a.m. on Saturday, February 22, 1986 — Thomas Timberman awoke to a sharp knock at his door. When Timberman, a career foreign service worker, answered the door, he was met by two agents dressed in dark clothes, carrying shotguns. They didn’t tell him they were police. Instead, . . .

Continue reading. And do continue reading. It’s a long article and the evidence of an increasing and unchecked authoritarian police-state mentality is clear. Read the whole thing, and figure out what you’ll do when they come for you.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 March 2016 at 12:05 pm

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