Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Debunking “The Rise of the Warrior Cop”

When I went to school I was taught about how the bill of rights was created to protect us and prevent this country from ever turning into a police state. This includes the fourth amendment which says, "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."

This was one of the reasons that our founding father fought the revolutionary war to obtain independence and establish a democracy, and what we were taught made America great.

Recently I have read “The Rise of the Warrior Cop” by Radley Balko which talks about an enormous amount of "no-knock" police raids conducted by SWAT teams for non-violent crimes and many of which are on the wrong house and people in these houses have no way of knowing that the people breaking in with flash grenades are police or not and might come to the obvious conclusion that they're terrorists, since they're protected by the fourth amendment in the USA, which is the leader of the free world.

If what I was taught when I was a kid is true then clearly this book needs to be debunked!

Several good reporters have claimed that a reporter is only as good as his sources and for the most part this is true assuming he does a good job citing them although some do go beyond that and do some original research beyond their own sources. One of the things that Radley Balko claims is that a SWAT team invaded a mayor's home and killed his dogs in one of these SWAT raids, without realizing it or consulting with local police departments, which hardly seems credible, and that can easily be confirmed or refuted by checking with his sources or finding corroborating sources like the following article from the Washington Post:

Police Raid Berwyn Heights Mayor's Home, Kill His 2 Dogs

A police SWAT team raided the home of the mayor in the Prince George's County town of Berwyn Heights on Tuesday, shooting and killing his two dogs, after he brought in a 32-pound package of marijuana that had been delivered to his doorstep, police said.

Mayor Cheye Calvo was not arrested in the raid, which was carried out about 7 p.m. by the Sheriff's Office SWAT team and county police narcotics officers. Prince George's police spokesman Henry Tippett said yesterday that all the residents of the house -- Calvo, his wife and his mother-in-law -- are "persons of interest" in the case.

The package was addressed to Calvo's wife, Trinity Tomsic, said law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing.

Tippett said police are working to determine for whom the drugs were meant.

Calvo said yesterday that he did not know how the drugs wound up on his doorstep. He works part time as the mayor and serves as director of expansion for the SEED Foundation, a well-known national nonprofit group that runs urban public boarding schools.

"My government blew through my doors and killed my dogs," Calvo said. "They thought we were drug dealers, and we were treated as such. I don't think they really ever considered that we weren't." ....

Police said yesterday that, when they seized the package during the raid, it was unopened.

Berwyn Heights Police Chief Patrick Murphy said county police and the Sheriff's Office had not notified his department of the raid. He said town police could have conducted the search without a SWAT team.

"You can't tell me the chief of police of a municipality wouldn't have been able to knock on the door of the mayor of that municipality, gain his confidence and enter the residence," Murphy said. "It would not have been a necessity to shoot and kill this man's dogs." Complete article

Well apparently, unless someone faked that article and planted it on the internet, which seems unlikely, he didn't make up that story; but this hardly indicates a pattern of behavior and some people trying to mislead the public often latch onto single incidents and imply that it is an epidemic. Without confirming further stories this could be an isolated incident by one rogue SWAT team.

Another incident he reports on involves Sal Culosi who allegedly was involved in illegal gambling activities. Checking for corroborating sources also turns up another Washington Post article:

Officer Won't Face Charges in Shooting Death

The Fairfax County police officer who shot an unarmed man to death in January will not be charged with a crime, the county's chief prosecutor announced this afternoon.

From the start, Fairfax police declared that the killing of Salvatore J. Culosi Jr., 37, was an accident and that the SWAT officer who fired had done so unintentionally. Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said that when a person fires a gun without malice and unintentionally kills someone, "they do not commit a crime."

"I feel for the family of the victim in this case," Horan said. "You have to. But I also feel for the police officer. This is a good police officer. Fine record, almost 17 years. He's as shattered by this as any good police officer should be."

Police had been investigating whether Culosi, an optometrist with offices in Manassas and Warrenton, was a sports bookmaker. An undercover officer had been placing bets with Culosi for nearly four months and arrived outside Culosi's townhouse in the Fair Lakes area on Jan. 24 to collect $1,500 in winnings, Horan said. Complete article

Well apparently that one was also true according to corroborating sources. Five years later a law suit was settled by the Culosi family, Culosi family to receive $2 million from Fairfax, the officer that fired the shot was suspended for three weeks without pay and transferred out of the SWAT team and changes were made in that particular department that supposedly ensure that this type of event doesn't happen again. This means that the tax payers are still paying for the officers salary after his suspension was up and they're also paying for the settlement and according to Radley Balko Virginia’s government spent $20 million promoting the state lottery that year; other sources have indicated that studies show that gambling leads to increased crime but if the government is controlling it perhaps they're less likely to shoot you over it.

This isn't quite the way I might have expected my efforts to debunk this might have turned out assuming what I was taught in school was accurate but it is still worth checking some of his other sources like the following:

Federal judge throws out Jonathan Whitworth's lawsuit against SWAT team that killed his pit bull

If you've seen the YouTube video above of the February 2010 raid of a home in Columbia, Missouri, the images are likely burned in your brain. Columbia police raided Jonathan Whitworth's home looking for drugs. In the process, members of a SWAT team shot and killed his pit bull and wounded his corgi-pit bull mix. Officers rounded up his wife and 7-year-old son, and they were held for a time just a few feet from the dead dog as Whitworth was handcuffed.

Whitworth and his family sued the city of Columbia along with 12 police officers, claiming his family's constitutional rights were violated. However, a federal judge has dismissed the case.

The Whitworths’ attorney, Jeff Hilbrenner, told the Columbia Daily Tribune: “We always knew this was a tough case, but that doesn’t mean we will shy away from tough cases. The conduct of Columbia police was so extreme, we thought it needed to be reviewed by a court. The Whitworths will evaluate whether they want to appeal the judge’s ruling.”

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey didn't see any problem with the way officers conducted the raid. That's interesting since Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton admitted at a news conference that "we did some things wrong," and his department changed policies on how SWAT raids are conducted. Complete article

People that are worried about using tax payer money to settle lawsuits might be satisfied with this but and innocent was still killed and another injured for a raid that didn't turn up much drugs, certainly not enough to indicate that they were after a violent drug lord. This wasn't the same department as the one that killed Sal Culosi but it was four years later and they don't seem to have learned much from past mistakes.

Additional searches to confirm his reports confirms more of them and turns up more stories that he hasn't reported. So far I haven't found any that I have been able to refute. Many of these stories have been reported by other people but Raldley Balko clearly seems to be the one reporting far more on this subject than anyone else. Most if not all of his reports do seem to include details that can easily be confirmed from other sources although there are so many I haven't been able to check them all.

Business Insider: 9 Horrifying Botched Police Raids

The Shocking Tales of 11 of the Most Over the Top US Police Paramilitary Raids and the Innocent People They Victimized

Accidental Police Shootings And Wrong Address Raids

Cato Institute: Botched Paramilitary Police Raids

This isn't the kind of confirmation I would expect if the things I was taught as a child about the constitution protecting us from unlawful searches and seizures were accurate. Regrettably, when reviewing his work most of it turns out to be true; either that or there is a major effort to create an enormous number of stories through the traditional media which he cites as his sources, which would be even more far fetched.

If I want to nitpick I could argue that he didn't do as much reporting on why some police officers are so aggressive and and how they recruit people that probably shouldn't be police. At one point he asks readers to think about the type of people that were excited in high school:

But these shows may have a more sinister effect. In emphasizing the more aggressive, confrontational aspect of police work over community service—hurting people instead of helping people—they may be shifting the profile of the typical young person attracted to police work. Browse the dozens of police recruitment videos on YouTube, for example, and you’ll find that many of them feature images of cops tackling suspects, rappelling out of helicopters, shooting guns, kicking down doors, and siccing dogs on people. The images are often set to blaring guitars or heavy metal music. These are the videos that police departments send to high schools and colleges to attract new recruits. At the very first step in the process of staffing their departments, then, these agencies are deliberately appealing to people who are likely to be lured by the thrill-seeking, adrenaline-producing, butt-kicking aspects of law enforcement. Build an entire police force of people who fit that description and you have a force of cops who seek confrontation instead of avoiding it and who look to escalate volatile situations instead of resolving them peacefully. These are the sort of cops who volunteer for the SWAT team for the very reasons they should be excluded from it—cops like the two Maricopa County SWAT officers who talked to CBS News reporter Jim Stewart in 1997. The best part of being on the SWAT team, one of the officers said, was that “you get to play with a lot of guns. That’s what’s fun. You know, everybody on this team is—you know, loves guns.” The second cop then chimed in. “Hey, the bottom line is it’s friggin’ fun, man. That’s the deal. Nobody wants to take burglary reports.” Complete article

This is good as far as it goes but it doesn't explain how they're trained in authoritarian ways to obey orders and in some cases to consider themselves above the law. Former police chief of Madison Wisconsin, David Couper, fills in some of the blanks that Radley Balko might not cover about how some bad police are trained in Hazing and Bullying in the Police Academy. Hazing is part of an escalating form of indoctrination that encourages violence and obedience without scrutiny. I have reviewed this in several posts including Authoritarianism and Psychology of the Ruling Class, White Collar Tyranny. Strict disciplinarian methods of educating children start with harsh early education tactics that often include corporal punishment which might lead to bullying later in life or hazing. This method is often used to teach children to blindly obey orders and believe what they're told from authorities.

This escalation of violence and obedience to authority would include the hazing in police academies that David Couper describes. The government also funded research into this in the past with the support of the Office of Naval Research as I reviewed in several posts in the past including "Eli Roth’s and Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority experiments much more extensive." The majority of these reports about these obedience experiments didn't focus on whether or not they would also lead to escalating violence; although the research done by Philip Greven did and I attempted to increase that focus. Philip Zimbardo, an associate of Milgram's, also dis several research projects which were funded directly by the Office of Naval Research and I reviewed them in the same blogs. The claims by Zimbardo and Milgram were that they did these to understand why the Nazi's were so obedient to authority, and how to avoid the same thing in the future; however, judging by the way the military and SWAT teams have been using hazing in their training, it seems as if instead of avoiding blind obedience without scrutiny, they may be trying to encourage it.

Couper also wrote his own review of SWAT! — Is There a Problem Here? Seeing this come from a former police officer and knowing that there are others like him, including some the Radley Balko mentioned should indicate a good alternative to the excessive use of force by the bad police officers, assuming we could convince political leaders to rely more on the good police officers and less on the authoritarians that they currently use. Murder rates in Madison (population 240,000) is significantly lower than most large cities above a population of 250,000 and it is below average compared to the rest of the country.

One problem might be that many politicians are more concerned about appointing police that will obey orders from them and advance their political agendas or the agendas of their campaign contributors than doing good police work. Anyone who has been to either the democratic or Republican conventions or many of the protests against corporate corruption in the past twenty years might have seen the results of this. When they have these conventions, instead of trying to give all people a reasonable chance to get their views across, they routinely restrict protesters to "free speech zones" where the media can ignore them so they have no opportunity to influence the public. the information given by the media is almost entirely controlled by a small percentage of the public. On top of that police are routinely used to enforce strict rules about trespassing or disorderly conduct when people with legitimate concerns try to get their voices heard but do little or nothing when it comes to labor violations or enormous amounts of environmental destruction by large corporations.

There have been far more of these incidents than the vast majority of the public is probably aware of. a relatively small percentage of the public is almost certainly keeping closer watch and some of these people have been actively opposing the militarization of the police; however in some cases they may have implied that it is happening more often than it is, although it won't seem that way to those that are in the areas where this is more common. there are still many areas where this is less common which is why many people are unaware of it. It may also be why they might b reluctant to believe this is going on. After taking a closer look at it I have found several of these raids that are much closer to my area even though I probably don't live in near the vast majority of these botched raids. It appears that they're happening more often than I realized here as well and if I hadn't looked for them I never would have known they happened, how often they're happening or how they go out of control much more often in other parts of the country.

Most people in this area probably wouldn't believe how serious this is unless they took a closer look; clearly the media isn't doing an adequate job covering it and we aren't protected nearly as well, if at all, by the first amendment.

In a follow up post I will review more about how some police forces, mostly in less privileged areas, are relying more on authoritarian methods that don't work than addressing the root causes. In most cases, addressing the root causes shouldn't be done by police though; instead some of the most effective solutions would be done by educators before violence escalates and police are necessary. I will also review past activities of the CIA that have involved, at best looking the other way while drugs are being imported, at worst actively covering up for their allies who are profiting from it and have been funding their agenda with funds; and possible posts by Jerad and Amanda Miller claiming they were the victims of an overly aggressive raid at gun point because his friend missed a court date for a marijuana pipe.

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