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Macho Stupidity Runs Amock

An article from the Washington Post the no-knock raid on Berwyn Height’s Mayor Cheye Calvo’s home.

Georgia stood trembling in front of the kitchen stove. Payton, who had been stretched out in a corner of the living room farthest from the front door, his head resting near the threshold to the kitchen “turned toward the front door when I turned,” Georgia recalled. “He didn’t have time to do anything else.” Almost instantly, men in black ran forward and shot Payton in the face, Georgia said. “They kept shooting,” she recalled. “I didn’t know how many times they shot Payton because there was so much gunfire.”

“Down on the ground!” Georgia recalled someone screaming at her. She was too terrified to move.

Chase, always timid even when there was nothing to fear, did what he did best — he ran. He ran away from the men in black, zipped past Georgia at the stove, Georgia recalled. The screaming, running men followed Chase, shooting as he tried escaping into the dining room, Georgia said. She watched in horror as men in black rushed the dining room from all directions. “I could hear Chase whimpering,” Georgia said. Then she heard someone shoot at Chase again, she said.

[…]

“The guy in there is crazy,” Johnson remembered a Prince George’s County officer telling him when he arrived. “He says he is the mayor of Berwyn Heights.”

“That is the mayor of Berwyn Heights,” Johnson replied.

The detective looked very surprised, Johnson later recalled: “He had that ‘Oh, crap’ look on his face.”

Utterly stupid.

This is how Murphy later recalled their conversation:

“Martini tells me that when the SWAT team came to the door, the mayor met them at the door, opened it partially, saw who it was, and then tried to slam the door on them,” Murphy recalled. “And that at that point, Martini claimed, they had to force entry, the dogs took aggressive stances, and they were shot.”

If the police chief’s recollection is correct not only stupid, but liars too.

“I found something,” Georgia heard a detective yell excitedly. The woman held a white envelope filled with cash. Inside, was $68. Across the front of the envelope were written two words: “yard sale.”

ZOMG!!!!11!!!one!!

The scene at the house was so terrible and odd to Berwyn Heights officer Johnson that he planted himself in the living room. He couldn’t see a search warrant posted anywhere. The mayor looked so vulnerable that Johnson wanted to make sure nothing even worse happened to him, such as getting shot. “Not that I didn’t trust the police,” Johnson would later say. “But I wanted to personally witness what is going to happen to my mayor, so if they try to say this guy went for a gun — and he didn’t — it’s not going to happen on my watch.”

And it figures the good cop in the story is one of the local cops. Not a member of some elite task force, not a “highly trained” specialist; nope just a regular cop working in a small town.

Cheye says the lead officer at the scene, Prince George’s Det. Shawn Scarlata, told him and Trinity that he could haul them all into jail because the box had been addressed to Trinity. But he said he wasn’t going to as long as they cooperated. (Scarlata later said he could not comment on the case for this article.)

Stupid, lying and insulting.

Police Chief Murphy was angry that Prince George’s police hadn’t given him the courtesy of notifying him before their raid, allowing him to help them execute their search warrant peacefully and avert tragedy. “I never imagined, when I set out to protect people from the crooks and the criminals, that I would have to protect them from my fellow police officers,” Murphy told the crowd.

Indeed.

High and Jackson defended the raid on the mayor of Berwyn Heights as reasonable and restrained, given the information they had at the time. “In some quarters, this has been viewed as a flawed police operation and an attack on the mayor, which it is not,” High said. “This was about an address; this was about a name on a package . . . and, in fact, our people did not know that this was the home of the mayor and his family until after the fact.”

Shorter Prince George’s County Police Chief High and Sherif Jackson, “We didn’t do anything other than the bare minimum for investigative work.”

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About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research.

Comments

  1. While the narrative style of piece is a bit cumbersome, I would encourage everyone to read it.

    It is a sickening testament to how far we have gone to “make us safe” from drugs. A home was violated, a family terrorized and two dogs slain in the name of trying to stop people from smoking marijuana. How any of it makes any sense is beyond me.

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  2. sam says:

    Has anyone ever done a cost-benefit analyis of the War on Drugs? (And, I think, an honest analysis would somehow have to incorporate effups like this, nonviolent offenders thrown into the legal system, police corruption, and so on.)

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  3. Steve Plunk says:

    Okay, let’s call this what it is and it is not about the war on drugs, it’s about modern police techniques and training. This instance was drug related but sometimes it’s as simple as a traffic stop. Trained to use maximum force and to minimize any risk to themselves police terrorize regular citizens and seldom are held responsible.

    With great power comes great responsibility. Any abuses such as these should punished at a level higher than what a common citizen would face. Training needs to be rethought and retooled. Citizen rights must be protected.

    I’ve said it a hundred times, we are more likely to have our rights violated by the local authorities than the FBI or any federal agency. All the attention goes to things like listening to overseas calls when the real problem is down at city hall.

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  4. sam says:

    Okay, let’s call this what it is and it is not about the war on drugs, it’s about modern police techniques and training.

    Well, the instant case issued from the War on Drugs, and Radly Balko has detailed a number of these atrocities and the WOD. But I take your point. However, there is something more fundamental underlying these kinds of things, something that goes beyond training, I think. The no-knock warrant is the real culprit here. When police are given a no-knock warrant, the floodgates are opened to excessive force:

    A police spokesman told reporters that Prince George’s narcotics investigators had sought, and been granted, a “no-knock” warrant before searching Cheye and Trinity’s house. Maryland law authorizes police to request a no-knock warrant, one intended to be served by force and unannounced, if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that evidence would be destroyed or officers’ lives placed in danger if they knocked on a suspect’s door and demanded entry.

    The assumption behind a no-knock warrant is that the targets of the warrant will resist the officers, as the above states. That assumption predisposes the police to use maximum force in execution of the warrant: Shoot first and ask questions later.

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  5. sam says:

    And there’s this:

    Prank 911 Calls Send SWAT Teams to Unsuspecting Homes

    I’m not sure a no-knock warrant was involved (though I’ll bet one was). We’re all at risk. The new sport is called “swatting”.

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  6. tom p says:

    Okay, let’s call this what it is and it is not about the war on drugs, it’s about modern police techniques and training.

    This is what happens when one militarizes one’s police force. Do we want to be Iraq? (this has been coming for a long time, and has played itself out in a thousand smaller cases…) I wonder, would any one have noticed if he hadn’t been the mayor?

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  7. Okay, let’s call this what it is and it is not about the war on drugs, it’s about modern police techniques and training.

    Given that the main reason for the increase in SWAT tactics and these types of raids IS the War on Drugs, I am not sure how this can in any way be divorced from the War on Drugs. Indeed, this is a direct manifestation of the War on Drugs—and this kind of thing happens far, far too often.

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  8. tom p says:

    Given that the main reason for the increase in SWAT tactics and these types of raids IS the War on Drugs, I am not sure how this can in any way be divorced from the War on Drugs. Indeed, this is a direct manifestation of the War on Drugs—and this kind of thing happens far, far too often.

    my point exactly Steve, and it gets even worse than that. Consider, for example, the assets that are seized, without adjudication of fact, because some drug dealer, somewhere, at some time, had $10,000 on him?

    Last time I checked, it was not against the law to have large amounts of cash on one’s person. And yet, these monies are seized all the time, without benefit of law.

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  9. Franklin says:

    And the reason they come with excessive force is that the dealers are well-armed. How and why? Again, it’s the War on Drugs which results in drug-dealing being a lucrative career that demands being well-armed.

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  10. steve s says:

    Ah, yes, the New Professionalism that Scalia uses to bend the rules to the cops.

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  11. steve s says:

    Last time I checked, it was not against the law to have large amounts of cash on one’s person.
    Posted by tom p | February 2, 2009 | 08:32 pm | Permalink

    Where did you check?

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  12. steve s says:

    Frankly, I blame the voters. I live in an uneducated, rural community in North Florida. The kind of place that went overwhelmingly for Prop 2 (our version of prop 8) If you run for Sheriff you have to promise to give ZERO TOLERANCE to ‘drug dealers’, which everyone around here interprets to mean ‘the coloreds’. If you send the swat team out and seize some pot you look like you did real good. When my friend Mandy got caught with a joint and had to drop out of the local community college, people around here probably thought that was justice.

    Fortunately, the new cohort of voters, the same group that went for Obama 2-1, generally know that pot is harmless. So I expect to see decriminalization sometime in the next 2 decades. It’s not a war on Drugs. It’s a War on Citizens Who Use Drugs. And it needs to stop.

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  13. anjin-san says:

    The war on drugs is something I studied in depth when I went back to school in the 90s. The more you learn, the scarier it gets.

    Ditto for the militarization of police forces. The Bush administration was working hard to put Posse Comitatus to sleep, and that is something we all need to pay attention to. The rapid proliferation of government cameras in public places is also troubling. The very expensive cameras the city of San Francisco installed have had no effect on crime, but big brother is in a much better position to keep an eye on us.

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  14. Steve Verdon says:

    Ah, yes, the New Professionalism that Scalia uses to bend the rules to the cops.

    On this we can totally agree steve s.

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  15. steve s says:

    On this we can totally agree steve s.

    I totally agree Steve V. It is my sincere hope that the War on Drugs goes away as completely as the Temperance Movement did.

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  16. steve s says:

    I don’t even care for drugs. I would maybe have a pot plant, maybe, if it was legal, for occasional smoking. I’m not all that interested in pot. I’m more interested in stimulants. Working on an ether-based nicotine extraction at the moment–don’t get the water too hot, fellas: nicotine hydrolyzes–but as a liberal, I don’t want cops abusing their authority and kicking down doors. Living in a very conservative community, I wouldn’t operate a grow room right now come hell or high water. Too costly. I look forward to the liberal/libertarian day when adults can go about their business unmolested by Big Business/Big Law Enforcement.

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  17. Steve Verdon says:

    I totally agree Steve V. It is my sincere hope that the War on Drugs goes away as completely as the Temperance Movement did.

    Me too. Never tried drugs (other than as perscribed by a doctor) and have no real interest. I just think it is doing bad things to our society on a number of levels.

    When you can get busted for essentially having severe allergies something is wrong.

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  18. Peter W says:

    Blame Det. Shawn Scarlata. He was too busy running his criminal real estate business and publishing his newsletter the night before to bother doing research on the address and occupant whose life he destroyed. This guy should be put in jail for a long time.

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