Another Botched SWAT Raid

Radley Balko has been sent information about 20 to 25 new botched SWAT raids that he missed when preparing Overkill, his report for the Cato Institute. The first one he posted is pretty much in line with what has been posted before. The cops show up at an address, there are two houses on the lot, so they apparently flip a coin or something and raid the wrong house.

What really caught my eye is this,

“We believe justice was served in this case,” Soccio said.

As far as the officers’ conduct, they were cleared early on.

“We don’t believe the officers did anything wrong,” Soccio said. “There were two houses on one lot, and it was tough to know that going in there.”

Let me see, they enter either without announcing themselves or doing such a half-assed job that the homeowner isn’t aware of who is breaking down his front door. They exchange fire with the totally innocent homeowner, arrest him, charge him with attempted murder, drag out the case for 7 years, clear the officers almost immediately, and yet nothing was done wrong. How about gross incompetence. Fire those idiot cops who can’t double check the address, or do something like drive by prior to the raid to check out the situation. Or institute the following policy:

    If you find more than one residence on a lot and can’t tell which one is the target of the raid, call off the raid.

Soccio is a complete idiot who shouldn’t have any degree of power at all as well. Unfortunately he is the Chief Deputy District Attorney and very much part of the problem. When the cops screw up and nearly kill a man, he covers for them.

Now that the criminal case has been settled, Heikkila and others who were in his house at the time of the raid are pursuing a federal civil-rights lawsuit against Riverside County, Moreno Valley and several law-enforcement officers.

Damn straight and I sincerely hopes that the lives of these law enforcement officers become similar to the Hell that Heikkila went through.

And here is the real downside to all of this: I’ve started looking at the police officers with more and more distrust and I think that people who read Balko’s paper will do the same thing and that is bad. I know that not all police officers aren’t all gun crazed cowboys and that most are good people, but how is the average citizen to tell which type of police officer he is dealing with. When law abiding citizens start to fear the police in general, then the situation is approaching a police state and that is not a good thing. Changing things so that SWAT teams are used for what they were originally created for (hostage situations, crazed snipers, heavily armed bank robbers, terrorists, etc.) and police officers are held accountable to the same laws as ordinary citizens would go a long ways to correcting this out of whack system.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , ,
Steve Verdon
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. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Fersboo says:

    Steve,

    I understand your and Radley’s point, but wonder if maybe the histronics are a bit much. It is a jungle out there and sometimes innocents get hurt. I believe that law enforcement that errs when doing its work should be reprimanded or terminated, depending on the severity of their error, and that their jurisdictions are liable for damages. However, I believe that these effective tools (and they are effective and law enforcement is defensive because their jobs will be made more difficult to impossible to perform) protect many more innocent lifes, both civilian and law enforcement, than they possible damage or end.

    I would be curious to your position on capital punishment.

  2. Bithead says:

    And I would as well.

    I’d also be intereted in knowing what kind of percentages we’re dealing with here… how many such raids go according to plan vs how many go wrong.

    Granted that one is too many, but are we demanding perfection?

  3. DaveD says:

    I support Steve’s position. I don’t think he is condemning the method. The cops got a lead, they show up at an address and there are two domiciles. If they are at this point surprised/confused by what they have discovered about their target then they have very obviously not prepared adequately for a SWAT raid. I mean these aren’t neighborhood uniforms knocking on the front door just following up on a disturbance of the peace complaint. This is a SWAT raid!!! Sorry, can’t find an excuse for the cops in this particular incident no matter what the general percentages are.

  4. >I know that not all police officers arenâ??t all
    >gun crazed cowboys and that most are good
    >people, but how is the average citizen to tell
    >which type of police officer he is dealing with.

    The problem is the “good people” cops actively obstruct any attempts to hold the “gun crazed cowboy” cops accountable. So when it comes to police abuse of authority, they’re just as much a part of the problem as the actual perpetrators.

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    I understand your and Radleyâ??s point, but wonder if maybe the histronics are a bit much. It is a jungle out there and sometimes innocents get hurt.

    Thanks for the clarification, I thought we were living in a civilized country with the rule of law, but now I see: It’s a jungle therefore paramilitary police raids, often on non-violent offenders, are justified.

    Thanks.

    I believe that law enforcement that errs when doing its work should be reprimanded or terminated, depending on the severity of their error, and that their jurisdictions are liable for damages.

    Whats the problem, that is what I want too, but that is very, very far from the truth. Tell you what, you go out and find one single example of a SWAT raid gone wrong where the police officers were terminated from their jobs.

    However, I believe that these effective tools (and they are effective and law enforcement is defensive because their jobs will be made more difficult to impossible to perform) protect many more innocent lifes, both civilian and law enforcement, than they possible damage or end.

    You haven’t read the report have you? Be honest, because by the above the answer can only be, “No.” Balko points out that the “effectiveness” of these raids is highly dubious in terms of securing arrests.

    I would be curious to your position on capital punishment.

    and

    And I would as well.

    Your plea for a strawman here is noted, and rejected.

    Iâ??d also be intereted in knowing what kind of percentages weâ??re dealing with hereâ?¦ how many such raids go according to plan vs how many go wrong.

    Bwahahahaha. Another person who hasn’t read the report. I dare you Bithead to go out and find any law enforcement jurisdiction that keeps track of its botched SWAT raids. Balko’s numbers are a lower bound, and the likely number is actually much higher.

    But, am I to understand that dead innocents is an acceptable price…even with slight improvements in policing procedures can prevent such deaths?

    Granted that one is too many, but are we demanding perfection?

    No, but why settle for gross incompetence?

    I support Steveâ??s position. I donâ??t think he is condemning the method.

    Finally! Yes, SWAT does have a purpose, but serving a drug warrant on a non-violent recreational user sure as heck isn’t it. Is that what SWAT officers joined the unit for…to bust the 19 year old college drop out/surfer who is lighting up a fat one on a Saturday evening? My God, it is a jungle out there!

    The cops got a lead, they show up at an address and there are two domiciles. If they are at this point surprised/confused by what they have discovered about their target then they have very obviously not prepared adequately for a SWAT raid.

    Just wanted to repeat this because it captures the point perfectly.

  6. randall says:

    The irony is that police officers have the right to defend themselves even when they are screwing up and attacking innocent people. No-knock raids need to go away unless a better method of identifying the correct address can be found. By the way, citizens have the right to defend themselves in their homes. If a person is not aware that it’s a police raid then they should not be held responsible for injury to an officer. When a cop hurts someone they sure as hell don’t want to be held responsible. Blame needs to be placed on swat supervision and not the individual officer. How about placing some blame on judges who sign the search warrants.

  7. Bithead says:

    Bwahahahaha. Another person who hasn�t read the report. I dare you Bithead to go out and find any law enforcement jurisdiction that keeps track of its botched SWAT raids.

    So how is it they end up in Balko’s blog all the time? SOMEONE clearly is recording them.

    But fine… let’s go based on what we know… and let’s situlate that Balko’s doing a fair job of collecting these things. Let’s pit Balko’s reports up against the reports of successful raids. What I’m after here is some kind of judgement on a failure rate. Seems a reasonable request.

    Care to try?

  8. Anderson says:

    SOMEONE clearly is recording them.

    The liberal media, of course. Disregard at will. Inserting fingers in ears and chanting “la la la” is effective, as is continuous FoxNews viewing.

    Incidentally, guys like Steve V. who can dissent from the party line are much more persuasive advocates for conservative values than are those who never saw a cop raid they didn’t like.

  9. TJIT says:

    I would be happy if the police were held to the same standards as every other citizen.

    If any other citizen in the course of performing their job duties (plumber, delivery driver, engineer, carpenter, etc)made the same type of mistakes Balko documents with the same results (dead people and damaged property) they would face massive civil and crimminal liability.

    However, when the police don’t do their job correctly people like bithead and fersboo are willing to let them get away with mistakes and incompetence that would put any other citizen in jail.

  10. Gollum says:

    Bithead – –

    It’s downright amusing that even after Steve baits you on the point you still haven’t looked at Balko’s report. He doesn’t mean the blog. Balko goes on at length about how departments don’t keep formal count of their stats but some department heads will estimate botch rates at 10% and more and freedom of information inquiries by newspapers have confirmed similar rates in some locales.

    And DaveD said

    I mean these aren�t neighborhood uniforms knocking on the front door just following up on a disturbance of the peace complaint. This is a SWAT raid!!!

    but I think the problem is that these ARE neighborhood uniforms, problem is they are all dressed up in ninja gear without appropriate training. Balko even records a case where the SWAT team WAS sent on a noise complaint.

    Anyway my reservation about Balko’s report is that while there are some statistics mixed in it is largely based on anecdote. Even “hundreds” of stories across multiple years only adds up to a couple in each state each year. Not that that makes the problem any less serious, just not endemic.