Gun Control Debate -  Growing militarization of U.S. police (1742 views) Notify me whenever anyone posts in this discussion.Subscribe
 
From: [PC][8 of 7]BobTheElf (BOBTHEELF)4/8/13 7:16 PM 
To: All  (1 of 46) 
 1202.1 

Original content moved to an existing discussion: Cops on reasonable gun control

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Police Militarizataion photo PoliceMilitarization_zpsa9b56d76.jpg

The growing militarization of U.S. police
Thousands of SWAT-type raids changing face of law enforcement
by James Simpson
7 Apr 13

As politicians exploit the Newtown tragedy to promote new laws to restrict firearms and implement universal background checks that could lead to gun registration and confiscation, another parallel trend — namely, the increasing militarization of law enforcement, most visibly demonstrated by the growing use of massive, SWAT-type raids on businesses and individuals, sometimes with federal involvement or authorization — is heightening concerns that America is moving toward a police state.

Mountain Pure SWAT raid: The Movie

Mountain Pure Water, LLC is headquartered on Interstate 30 just outside the town of Little Rock, Arkansas. The company manufactures and distributes beverage containers, spring water, fruit drinks, and teas. In January 2012, about 50 federal agents, led by Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General Special Agent Cynthia Roberts and IRS Special Agent Bobbi Spradlin, swooped in, guns drawn. Without explanation they shut down plant operations, herded employees into the cafeteria, and confined them to the room for hours. They could not so much as use the bathroom without police escort. Cell phones were confiscated and all Internet and company phones were disabled.

Plant Manager Court Stacks was at his desk when police burst through his office door, guns drawn and pointed at him — a thoroughly unprofessional violation of basic firearms discipline in this circumstance, and the cause of numerous accidental SWAT killings.

According to Mountain Pure CEO John Stacks, the search warrant was related to questions about an SBA loan he secured through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to recover tornado losses to his home, warehouse and associated equipment. Stacks says the SBA apparently doesn’t believe that assets listed as damaged in the storm were actually damaged.

The search warrant was extremely vague and some agents’ actions may have been illegal, according to company attorney, Timothy Dudley. Comptroller Jerry Miller was taken to a private room and interrogated for over three hours by SBA Special Agent Cynthia Roberts, the raid leader. He requested an attorney and was told, “That ain’t gonna happen.” According to Miller, the SBA unilaterally changed the terms of Stacks’ loan. He says he asked Roberts what gave the SBA authority to do that, and that she responded, “We’re the federal government, we can do what we want, when we want, and there is nothing you can do about it.” Miller said during the raid Roberts “strutted around the place like she was Napoleon.”

Stacks said the company has had three IRS audits in the past three years, including one following the raid, with no problems. The SBA has still not filed any charges, continues to stonewall about the raid’s purpose, and refuses to release most of the property seized during the raid.

Quality Assurance Director Katy Depriest, who doubles as the company crisis manager, described agents’ “Gestapo tactics.” She added that they confiscated CDs of college course work and educational materials for a class she had been taking that resulted in her flunking the course. Those materials have not yet been returned.

Attempts were made to contact Roberts for this article, but she is no longer employed by the SBA. Questions were directed to the Little Rock, Arkansas U.S. Attorney’s office. The USA’s public affairs officer had no comment; however they have convened a grand jury to evaluate the case.

VIDEO

Because law enforcement refused repeated requests to respond for this article, only Mountain Pure’s side of the story is known, but its representatives make a compelling case:

  • Many company employees were willing to discuss this raid on the record.
  • Mountain Pure and several employees have sued special agents Roberts and Spradlin.
  • Stacks commissioned a video about the raid, reproduced here.

The video includes testimony from Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of famed Gibson Guitar Corp., which suffered two such raids, and another raid target, Duncan Outdoors Inc. The video does not attempt to establish anyone’s guilt or innocence, but rather highlights law enforcement’s heavy-handed tactics in executing SWAT-style search warrants against legitimate businesses. Gibson has settled with the Justice Department in a case fraught with legal ambiguities, while Duncan has been indicted for violations of currency transaction reporting requirements.

 

  • Edited 7/20/2013 5:53 pm by EdGlaze
 
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From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/9/13 12:11 PM 
To: All  (2 of 46) 
 1202.2 in reply to 1202.1 

Stacks claims he has gotten calls from many companies that have suffered similar raids, but they are afraid to speak out. Here are a few examples that have made national news:

  • FDA officials, U.S. Marshals, and the Pennsylvania State Police raided an Amish farm in 2011 for selling raw milk.
  • A Department of Education SWAT team raided a man’s home, “dragged him out in his boxer shorts, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him” in front of his three young children. They were looking for evidence of his estranged wife’s financial aid fraud.
  • Sixty-six-year-old George Norris spent two years in jail following a USFWS raid that nailed him for filing incorrect forms on imported orchids.
  • A Fairfax, Virginia optometrist being served a warrant for illegal gambling was killed by a SWAT team member whose firearm accidentally discharged. He answered the door in his bathrobe, unarmed and unaware that he was even under investigation.

War on small business?

In 2006, the IRS announced it would shift its focus to audit more small businesses. IRS data on tax audits seems to bear this out. Between the first and second half of the last decade, the audit coverage rate on businesses with assets between $10 and $50 million increased by 42%. Between 2001 and 2005, an annual average of 13,549 returns were audited for businesses with assets of less than $10 million. Between 2006 and 2011, the average was 19,28 — an increase of over 42%.

The Sharpsburg Raid

This has paid off in increased enforcement revenues, but are massive SWAT raids an essential part of this new strategy? In addition to the potential dangers and the outrage of having company employees treated like drug dealers or terrorists, the cost of these raids is staggering. Agents told Mountain Pure employees they had flown in from all over the country.

Sharpsburg, Md., population 706, is a quiet little town bordering the Antietam National Battlefield in rural Washington County. On Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, at about 12:30 p.m., the quiet was shattered by an invasion of over 150 Maryland State Police (MSP), FBI, State Fire Marshal’s bomb squad and County SWAT teams, complete with two police helicopters, two Bearcat “special response” vehicles, mobile command posts, snipers, police dogs, bomb disposal truck, bomb sniffing robots and a huge excavator. They even brought in food trucks.

A heavily armed MSP Special Tactical Assault Team Element (STATE) executed a no-knock search warrant, smashing through the reportedly unlocked door with a battering ram. They worked until after 7:30 p.m., ransacking a modest, 20 ft. by 60 ft. single-family home for weapons, and searching for its owner, one Terry Porter. For hours, neighbors were left worrying and wondering, while countless police blanketed the area.

Local resident Tim Franquist described the scene:

“The event, or siege as we are calling it, involved convoys of police speeding to the area, two helicopters, armored vehicles, command centers, countless police cruisers and officers. They blocked off the roads and commandeered a campground as their staging area.”

Terry Porter is married with three children, has lived in the town all of his life, and owns a modest welding business. He is also a prepper. His preparations include an underground bunker, buried food supplies and surveillance cameras. Porter really doesn’t like Obama and tells anyone who will listen.

Unfortunately, one listener was an undercover officer for the Maryland State Police. The police had become interested in Porter through an anonymous caller who claimed that Porter “had been getting crazier and crazier …” and that he had “10 to 15 machine gun-style weapons, six handguns and up to 10,000 rounds of ammunition …” The MSP performed a background check and discovered Porter had a 20-year-old charge for aiding marijuana distribution, a disqualification for firearms ownership.

MSP detailed an officer to visit Porter’s shop on Nov. 16 posing as a customer. The officer said Porter “openly admitted to being a prepper.” Not a crime. Porter also allegedly claimed to have a Saiga shotgun, and was willing to use it “when people show up unannounced.” Based on the Russian AK-47 design, some Saiga variants are fully automatic. On Nov. 27 MSP obtained a search warrant.

Two days later the Maryland State Police appeared at Porter’s door but could not find him. Porter later disclosed he “left out the back door.” Where he went has not been disclosed. However, blogger Ann Corcoran, who lives nearby and followed the issue closely, claims he hid out in fear for his life. Given highly publicized, accidental shootings involving SWAT teams and the overwhelming force present, that’s a reasonable assumption.

The following day Porter turned himself in and took the police through his property. The raid produced a total of four shotguns, a 30-30-caliber hunting rifle and two .22-caliber rifles. He was charged with firearms possession violations and released on a $75,000 bond.

The raid was one of the largest in recent U.S. history, twice the size of the 1993 Branch Davidian raid in Waco, Texas, which initially involved 76 ATF agents. It almost rivaled the recent 200-strong statewide manhunt for California cop-killing cop, Christopher Dorner. Yet only a few local stories emerged and those presented a hysterical portrait of Porter while largely under-reporting the police presence.

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/9/13 12:12 PM 
To: All  (3 of 46) 
 1202.3 in reply to 1202.2 

Why the raid?

The Maryland State Police did not notify town officials or Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore, who learned of the raid after it began, when it requested the use of his SWAT Team and Bearcat. The MSP also set up a command center at a campground within the national park without notifying the Park Police. Bills have since been introduced in the Maryland legislature by Washington County Delegate Neil Parrott (HB 0219) and State Senator Chris Shank (SB 0259) to require notification of local law enforcement before any outside agency serves a warrant.

A meeting following the raid attracted 60 concerned Sharpsburg citizens and leaders. Sharpsburg Vice Mayor Bryan Gabriel characterized the raid as “overwhelming” and said it “could have put a lot of people at risk.” Erin Moshier, a citizen who attended the meeting, added, “We all felt there was excessive force involved, and we felt that a member of our community was victimized and we wanted to get to the bottom of it and get some answers.” Both Gabriel and Sheriff Mullendore have issued statements of support for Porter, who they know personally. Citizens created a “Friends for Terry” website to help with his legal costs.

When asked why the police did not simply detain Porter in town or at a traffic stop, MSP Hagerstown Barracks Commander, Lt. Thomas Woodward, said the police only had a property search warrant and had no authority to arrest Porter. However, police do have authority to “detain the property owner for 24 hours” when executing a search warrant, so Porter could have been intercepted elsewhere, but police chose to execute that authority as part of the raid.

Lt. Woodward said the state police have a good working relationship with Sheriff Mullendore. If that is the case, why didn’t they consult the sheriff first? If Porter were really that dangerous, wouldn’t it be helpful to get more information from a trusted source better acquainted with him? Mullendore said they usually do give notice. Reportedly several state police who personally know Porter reside in Sharpsburg. Why were they not consulted?

Does the Maryland State Police detail SWAT automatically for gun search warrants? Some other police forces do. For example, in one fatal Florida SWAT shooting, a 21-man SWAT team was called in merely because the target had a concealed-carry permit. Are SWAT raids to become the order of the day for gun owners?

If Porter is indeed adjudicated a felon in possession of firearms, then he was in violation of the law. He didn’t help his case by bragging to the undercover officer about his doomsday preparations, especially the Saiga — which turned out to be nonexistent.

There is nothing wrong with being prepared, or even describing the actions you might take in a hypothetical “doomsday” situation, but in fairness to police, with all the lunatics coming out of the woodwork these days and the heightened atmosphere of mutual distrust between law enforcement and citizens, the MSP might be excused for presuming the worst. But 150 police?

Recent events such as the kidnapping/bunker standoff in Alabama, and cop-killer Dorner, provide apt examples. Police never know what to expect. Still, in this case at least, it seems a little more investigation and consultation with local authorities could have resolved this issue quietly and with much less risk and cost.

Cost of the operation

Neither the FBI nor the MSP have publicly disclosed how many of their officers were involved in the raid. However, Senator Shank and Delegate Parrott were told in a meeting with top MSP officials that the total, including federal, state, and local police, exceeded 150. From public information requests it is known that the Washington County Special Response Team (SRT) sent 17, including four snipers, two medics and their Bearcat driver. Only two of these actually participated, the driver and a sniper who accompanied him.

The FBI personnel were training nearby and when their assistance was requested, many, if not all, chose to participate. A witness on the scene guessed there were approximately 40 officers at the campground where the FBI staged. Assuming a total of 150, that would leave 93 MSP. The following table, based on police salaries gleaned from public sources, provides a rough estimate of the personnel cost for this operation.

The MSP argued that only variable costs—those directly related to the operation — are relevant. By this logic, the operation cost very little, as salaries and other fixed costs are incurred anyway. But the personnel and resources involved would otherwise have been engaged elsewhere: tracking down criminals, enforcing other laws, and assisting in emergencies. There are clearly other, potentially more beneficial activities they could not simultaneously perform. This is called opportunity cost and must be considered.

This raid cost approximately $11,000 per hour, which dramatically illustrates one reason government spending is so wildly out of control. If agency managers considered the true cost of their decisions, they might work harder to prioritize their activities and not waste valuable resources on errands of questionable value.

High visibility events like the Sharpsburg raid present a one-sided picture of police as out-of-control, wasting time on seeming trifles. But their daily efforts, which go largely unreported, paint a much more balanced picture. For example, the MSP Gang Enforcement Unit has aggressively investigated violent street gangs, one of the largest sources of gun violence.

Between 2010 and 2012 alone, the Gang Unit made 621 gang arrests and seized 94 firearms. This does not include their extensive work with multi-agency task forces. Here, they have participated in successful operations against such violent gangs as the Crips and Bloods, Wise Guyz, B-6, the Black Guerrilla Family, Juggalos, the Dead Man Incorporated crime syndicate and others, and have brought many of these offenders to justice.

 

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/9/13 12:12 PM 
To: All  (4 of 46) 
 1202.4 in reply to 1202.3 


Militarization of police

The SWAT concept was popularized by Los Angeles Police Chief Darryl Gates in the late 1960s in response to large-scale incidents for which the police were ill-prepared. But the use of SWAT teams has since exploded. Massive SWAT raids using military-style equipment are becoming routine methods for executing search warrants. One study estimates 40,000 such raids per year nationwide:

“These increasingly frequent raids… are needlessly subjecting nonviolent drug offenders, bystanders, and wrongly targeted civilians to the terror of having their homes invaded while they’re sleeping, usually by teams of heavily armed paramilitary units dressed not as police officers but as soldiers.”

John W. Whitehead writes in the Huffington Post that “it appears to have less to do with increases in violent crime and more to do with law enforcement bureaucracy and a police state mentality.”

The ACLU recently announced its intention to investigate the militarization of law enforcement. Ironically, despite the perception of heightened gun violence due to incidents like Newtown, ACLU points out that both crime rates and law enforcement gun deaths have been declining for decades (see chart).

Yet police forces are becoming increasingly militarized due to huge subsidies provided by the federal government:

“Through its little-known “1033 program,” the Department of Defense gave away nearly $500 million worth of leftover military gear to law enforcement in fiscal year 2011 … The surplus equipment includes grenade launchers, helicopters, military robots, M-16 assault rifles and armored vehicles … Orders in fiscal year 2012 are up 400 percent over the same period in 2011 … .”

Congress created this provision in 1997 for drug and anti-terrorism efforts. It has since provided over 17,000 agencies $2.6 billion worth of equipment at no charge. One local agency now owns an amphibious tank, while another obtained a machine-gun-equipped APC.

Additionally, Department of Homeland Security grants have allowed state and local agencies nationwide to purchase Bearcats. These 16,000-pound vehicles are bulletproof and can be equipped with all kinds of extra features.

Ironically, while SWAT teams probably got their biggest boost initially from conservatives, many fear law enforcement is becoming a tool to enforce leftist ideology. University criminal justice programs turn out graduates indoctrinated in liberal ideology which carries into modern law enforcement bureaucratic culture.

Today this trend is reflected in reports coming out of the Department of Homeland Security, the military and various law enforcement “fusion” centers that identify gun-owners, patriots, ex-military, Christians, pro-life activists and tea party members as “potential domestic terrorists.”

The perpetrator of last summer’s attempted mass shooting at the Family Research Council headquarters now admits he was prompted by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Watch” list. The radical leftist SPLC is now “consulting” with the FBI and DHS regarding “rightwing hate groups.” The group labeled AIM’s Cliff Kincaid a member of a sinister group of “Patriots” for writing critically of the United Nations, President Obama and the homosexual activist lobby, among other things. Ironically, the SPLC “Teaching Tolerance” project ran an article praising unrepentant communist terrorist bomber Bill Ayers as a “civil rights organizer, radical anti-Vietnam War activist, teacher and author,” with an “editor’s note” going so far as to say that Ayers “has become a highly respected figure in the field of multicultural education.”

Ammo, military equipment and domestic drone use

The Internet is abuzz with news that the Department of Homeland Security is purchasing over 1.6 billion rounds of pistol and rifle ammunition, 2,700 Mine Resistant Armored Vehicles (MRAP), and 7,000 fully-automatic “personal defense weapons.” Some of this is worthy of concern, some maybe not so much. Meanwhile, the expanded use of aerial drones within the continental U.S. has created anxiety among the public and political leaders alike.

 

  • Edited 10/1/2013 4:38 pm by EdGlaze
 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/9/13 12:13 PM 
To: All  (5 of 46) 
 1202.5 in reply to 1202.4 

Ammo

Reportedly, the order for 1.6 billion rounds of pistol and rifle ammunition would fulfill DHS requirements for the next five years, or 320 million rounds per year. DHS has 55,471 employees authorized to carry firearms, which comes to about 5,800 rounds per year per employee. For perspective, during the first year of the war on terror, approximately 72 million rounds were expended in Iraq and another 21 million in Afghanistan by an estimated 45,000 combat troops. This amounts to about 2,000 rounds per war fighter.

Yet the requisition may not be unreasonable. The largest order, 750 million rounds, came from DHS’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) for training. FLETC Public Affairs Director Peggy Dixon said that the purchase request was “a ceiling. It does not mean that we will buy, or require, the full amounts of either contract.” Another 650 million rounds are being purchased by Inspections and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to cover the next five years.

Since these are maximum figures, it is difficult to conclusively evaluate the purchase. Some have asserted that the practical effect — if not the deliberate intent — is to dry up the private market for ammunition. Congressmen are now demanding answers from DHS regarding these purchases. But most ammunition shortages are likely due to civilian demands. Obama and the Democrats’ palpable hostility to gun owners has caused ammunition and firearms purchases to skyrocket.

There are 80 million gun owners in the U.S. If each just purchased 100 rounds of ammo — enough for one afternoon at the range — that would equal 8-billion rounds. Many are purchasing significantly more.

Instead of asking why DHS needs 1.6 billion rounds of ammo, the real question is, “Why does DHS need 55,000 law enforcement officers?”

Related discussion: Government buying lots of ammo

MRAPs and submachine guns

The original story regarding a purchase of 2,700 MRAPs s was in error. The confusion centers on a 2011 order from the U.S. Marines to retrofit 2,717 of its MRAPs with upgraded chassis.

DHS has been using MRAPs since 2008 and currently has a fleet of 16 received from the Army at no cost. They are used by DHS special response teams in executing “high-risk warrants.”

Similarly, the purchase of 7,000 “Personal Defense Weapons” is not extraordinary for an agency of this size.

Drones

DHS’s Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP) has been operating Predator drones since 2005, with a current fleet of nine. Some in Congress seek to expand their use. In February 2012, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which includes a provision for commercial drone regulations. The FAA projects that up to 30,000 drones could be flying by 2020. A requisition memo describes these requirements for drones operated by CBP against border incursions by frequently armed drug traffickers and coyotes, but concern exists that this use will extend to U.S. citizens inside the border.

Sen. Rand Paul, R.-Ky., filibustered the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director in order to obtain answers about lethal drone use against American citizens within the U.S. Holder finally sent Paul a letter, which said:

“It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

Paul said they had been asking Holder for about six weeks. But Holder didn’t answer the question at all. Paul did not specify Americans “engaged in combat on American soil.” He asked about attacks against any Americans on U.S. soil. Holder had said in earlier testimony that the President did have the authority to kill Americans on American soil in certain circumstances.

Given the Obama administration’s contempt for the Constitution and its broad definition of “domestic terrorists” to include pretty much anyone they don’t like, there is cause for genuine concern.

 

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host4/9/13 12:13 PM 
To: All  (6 of 46) 
 1202.6 in reply to 1202.5 

Gun control

The Sharpsburg raid occurred prior to the Newtown tragedy, but nonetheless reinforced the widespread impression that the Maryland State Police is an anti-gun organization. Did the MSP decide to make an example of Porter to send a message to Maryland gun owners, or were they genuinely afraid that Porter was about to go postal? That question is unclear, but a Maryland law enforcement source who has attended briefings on the subject said state police are “gearing up for confiscation.”

In 1989, Patrick O’Carroll of the Centers for Disease Control stated:

“We’re going to systematically build a case that owning firearms causes deaths. We’re doing the most we can do, given the political realities.”

The CDC further revealed its strategy in 1994:

“We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes. Now it [sic] is dirty, deadly, and banned.” Dr. Mark Rosenberg, Director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Control and Prevention. (Washington Post, 1994)

Related discussions:

Medical establishment hostile to guns

Hollywood and gun control

Do these themes sound familiar? They represent a single component of a vast effort by media, politicians, Hollywood, educational institutions and professionals to vilify gun ownership. One left-wing organization, Third Way, created a “messaging strategy,” encouraging the term “gun safety” because “gun control has become a loaded term that leads voters to believe that the candidate supports the most restrictive laws.”

Since Newtown, however, gun-control proponents have pretty much dropped any pretense. Here is a small sampling of recent anti-gun actions:

  • Florida Democratic state Senator Audrey Gibson has proposed a bill requiring anger management classes for would-be ammo purchasers.
  • Colorado State Senator Evie Hudak told a rape victim testifying against gun control that having a gun was a waste of time as the rapist would have killed her with it.
  • A Democrat activist says we should train rapists not to rape, rather than using guns to stop them.
  • A Baltimore, Md., seven-year-old was suspended from school for two days for biting a pastry into a shape that looked like a gun.
  • A five-year-old was suspended from school and branded a “terrorist threat” for telling a classmate she was going to shoot her with her Princess “bubble gun.”
  • A Philadelphia 5th grader was called “murderer” by classmates and yelled at by her teacher for having a piece of paper cut into a shape that looked vaguely like a pistol.
  • A New Jersey family was visited by police and the Department of Youth and Family Services because of a photo of their 11-year-old son posing with a rifle.

In an unguarded moment recently, U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky, D.-Ill., revealed the intentions of some Democrats:

“We want everything on the table … This is a moment of opportunity. There’s no question about it … We’re on a roll now, and I think we’ve got to take the — you know, we’re gonna push as hard as we can and as far as we can.”

Conclusion

The increased militarization of police forces and the associated use of SWAT teams for routine law enforcement are a dangerous trend. Given President Obama’s seeming willingness to abuse the power of his office on so many fronts, it is reasonable to expect more, not less, of the kind of abusive police overreach described in this report, while police forces and capabilities will continue to grow.

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host7/13/13 6:36 PM 
To: All  (7 of 46) 
 1202.7 in reply to 1202.6 

photo HeavilyArmedPolice-protest_zps24181dda.jpg



“Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book”:
The new warrior cop is out of control

SWAT teams raiding poker games and trying to stop underage drinking? Overwhelming paramilitary force is on the rise


Excerpted from
"Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces"

Sal Culosi is dead because he bet on a football game — but it wasn’t a bookie or a loan shark who killed him. His local government killed him, ostensibly to protect him from his gambling habit.

Several months earlier at a local bar, Fairfax County, Virginia, detective David Baucum overheard the 38-year-old optometrist and some friends wagering on a college football game. “To Sal, betting a few bills on the Redskins was a stress reliever, done among friends,” a friend of Culosi’s told me shortly after his death. “None of us single, successful professionals ever thought that betting fifty bucks or so on the Virginia–Virginia Tech football game was a crime worthy of investigation.” Baucum apparently did. After overhearing the men wagering, Baucum befriended Culosi as a cover to begin investigating him. During the next several months, he talked Culosi into raising the stakes of what Culosi thought were just more fun wagers between friends to make watching sports more interesting. Eventually Culosi and Baucum bet more than $2,000 in a single day. Under Virginia law, that was enough for police to charge Culosi with running a gambling operation. And that’s when they brought in the SWAT team.

On the night of January 24, 2006, Baucum called Culosi and arranged a time to drop by to collect his winnings. When Culosi, barefoot and clad in a T-shirt and jeans, stepped out of his house to meet the man he thought was a friend, the SWAT team began to move in. Seconds later, Det. Deval Bullock, who had been on duty since 4 AM and hadn’t slept in seventeen hours, fired a bullet that pierced Culosi’s heart.

Sal Culosi’s last words were to Baucum, the cop he thought was a friend: “Dude, what are you doing?”

In March 2006, just two months after its ridiculous gambling investigation resulted in the death of an unarmed man, the Fairfax County Police Department issued a press release warning residents not to participate in office betting pools tied to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The title: “Illegal Gambling Not Worth the Risk.” Given the proximity to Culosi’s death, residents could be forgiven for thinking the police department believed wagering on sports was a crime punishable by execution.

In January 2011, the Culosi family accepted a $2 million settlement offer from Fairfax County. That same year, Virginia’s government spent $20 million promoting the state lottery.

The raid on Sal Culosi was merely another red flag indicating yet more SWAT team mission creep in America. It wasn’t even the first time a Virginia SWAT team had killed someone during a gambling raid. In 1998 a SWAT team in Virginia Beach shot and killed security guard Edward C. Reed during a 3 AM raid on a private club suspected of facilitating gambling. Police said they approached the tinted car where Reed was working security, knocked, and identified themselves, then shot Reed when he refused to drop his handgun. Reed’s family insisted the police story was unlikely. Reed had no criminal record. Why would he knowingly point his gun at a heavily armed police team? More likely, they said, Reed mistakenly believed the raiding officers were there to do harm, particularly given that the club had been robbed not long before the raid. Statements by the police themselves seem to back that account. According to officers at the scene, Reed’s last words were, “Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book.”

As the Texas Hold ’Em craze picked up momentum in the mid-2000s, fans of the game started hosting tournaments at private clubs, bars, and residences. Police in many parts of the country responded with SWAT raids. In 2011, for example, police in Baltimore County, Maryland, sent a tactical unit to raid a $65 buy-in poker game at the Lynch Point Social Club. From 2006 to 2008, SWAT teams in South Carolina staged a number of raids to break up poker games in the suburbs of Charleston. Some were well organized and high-stakes, but others were friendly games with a $20 buy-in. “The typical police raid of these games … is to literally burst into a home in SWAT gear with guns drawn and treat poker players like a bunch of high-level drug dealers,” an attorney representing poker players told a local newspaper. “Using the taxpayers’ resources for such useless Gestapo-like tactics is more of a crime than is playing of the game.”

In 2007 a Dallas SWAT team actually raided a Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost for hosting charity poker games. Players said the tactics were terrifying. One woman urinated on herself. When police raided a San Mateo, California, poker game in 2008, card players described cops storming the place “in full riot gear” and “with guns drawn.” The games had buy-ins ranging from $25 to $55. Under California law, the games were legal so long as no one took a “rake,” or a cut of the stakes. No one had, but police claimed the $5 the hosts charged players to buy refreshments qualified as a rake. In March 2007, a small army of local cops, ATF agents, National Guard troops, and a helicopter raided a poker game in Cary, North Carolina. They issued forty-one citations, all of them misdemeanors. A columnist at the Fayetteville Observer remarked, “They were there to play cards, not to foment rebellion. … [I] wonder … what other minutiae, personal vices and petty crimes are occupying [the National Guard’s] time, and where they’re occupying it. … Until we get this sorted out, better not jaywalk. There could be a military helicopter overhead.”

 

  • Edited 7/29/2013 3:09 pm by EdGlaze
 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host7/13/13 6:36 PM 
To: All  (8 of 46) 
 1202.8 in reply to 1202.7 

Police have justified this sort of heavy-handedness by claiming that people who run illegal gambling operations tend to be armed, a blanket characterization that absurdly lumps neighborhood Hold ’Em tournaments with Uncle Junior Soprano’s weekly poker game. And in any case, if police know that people inside an establishment are likely to be armed, it makes even less sense to come in with guns blazing. Police have also defended the paramilitary tactics by noting that poker games are usually flush with cash and thus tend to get robbed. That too is an absurd argument, unless the police are afraid they’re going to raid a game at precisely the same moment it’s getting robbed. Under either scenario, the police are acknowledging that the people playing poker when these raids go down have good reason to think that the men storming the place with guns may be criminals, not cops.

Indeed, that’s exactly what happened to seventy-two-year-old Aaron Awtry in 2010. Awtry was hosting a poker tournament in his Greenville, South Carolina, home when police began breaking down the door with a battering ram. Awtry had begun carrying a gun after being robbed. Thinking he was about to be robbed again, he fired through the door, wounding Deputy Matthew May in both arms. The other officers opened fire into the building. Miraculously, only Awtry was hit. As he fell back into a hallway, other players reporting him asking, “Why didn’t you tell me it was the cops?” The raid team claimed they knocked and announced several times before putting ram to door, but other players said they heard no knock or announcement. When Awtry recovered, he was charged with attempted murder. As part of an agreement, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. Police had broken up Awtry’s games in the past. But on those occasions, they had knocked and waited, he had let them in peacefully, and he’d been given a $100 fine.

The poker raids have gotten bad enough that the Poker Players Alliance, an interest group that lobbies to make the game legal, has established a network of attorneys around the country to help players who have been raided and arrested.

But the mission creep hasn’t stopped at poker games. By the end of the 2000s, police departments were sending SWAT teams to enforce regulatory law. In August 2010, for example, a team of heavily armed Orange County, Florida, sheriff’s deputies raided several black-and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Orlando area. More raids followed in September and October. The Orlando Sentinel reported that police held barbers and customers at gunpoint and put some in handcuffs, while they turned the shops inside out. The police raided a total of nine shops and arrested thirty-seven people.

By all appearances, these raids were drug sweeps. Shop owners told the Sentinel that police asked them where they were hiding illegal drugs and weapons. But in the end, thirty-four of the thirty-seven arrests were for “barbering without a license,” a misdemeanor for which only three people have ever served jail time in Florida. The most disturbing aspect of the Orlando raids was that police didn’t even attempt to obtain a legal search warrant. They didn’t need to, because they conducted the raids in conjunction with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Despite the guns and handcuffs, under Florida law these were licensure inspections, not criminal searches, so no warrants were necessary.

That such “administrative searches” have become an increasingly common way for police to get around the Fourth Amendment is bad enough. More disturbing is the amount of force they’re opting to use when they do. In the fall of 2010, police in New Haven, Connecticut, sent a SWAT team to a local bar to investigate reports of underage drinking. Patrons were lined up at gunpoint while cops confiscated cell phones and checked IDs. There have been similar underage drinking SWAT raids on college fraternities. The Atlanta City Council recently agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to the customers and employees of a gay nightclub after a heavy-handed police raid in which police lined up sixty-two people on the floor at gunpoint, searched for drugs, and checked for outstanding warrants and unpaid parking tickets. Police conducted the September 2009 raid after undercover vice cops claimed to have witnessed patrons and employees openly having sex at the club. But the police never obtained a search warrant. Instead, the raid was conducted under the guise of an alcohol inspection. Police made no drug arrests, but arrested eight employees for permit violations.

Federal appeals courts have upheld these “administrative searches” even when it seems obvious that the real intent was to look for criminal activity as long as the government can plausibly claim that the primary purpose of the search was regulatory. In the case of the Orlando raids, simply noting the arrests of thirty-four unlicensed barbers would be enough to meet the test.

But the Fourth Amendment requires that searches be “reasonable.” If using a SWAT team to make sure a bar isn’t serving nineteen-year-olds is a reasonable use of force, it’s hard to imagine what wouldn’t be. At least a couple of federal appeals courts have recognized the absurdity. In 2009 the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck a small blow for common sense, allowing a civil rights suit to go forward against the sheriff’s department of Rapides Parish, Louisiana, after a warrantless SWAT raid on a nightclub thinly veiled as an administrative search. And in 1995 the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit made an even broader ruling, finding that having probable cause and a warrant for the arrest of one person in a club did not justify a SWAT raid and subsequent search of the entire club and everyone inside.

 

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host7/13/13 6:37 PM 
To: All  (9 of 46) 
 1202.9 in reply to 1202.8 

But other legal challenges to paramilitary-style administrative searches have been less successful. Consider the bizarre case of David Ruttenberg, owner of the Rack ‘n’ Roll pool hall in Manassas Park, Virginia. In June 2004, local police conducted a massive raid on the pool hall with more than fifty police officers, some of whom were wearing face masks, toting semi-automatic weapons, and pumping shotguns as they entered. Customers were detained, searched, and zip-tied. The police were investigating Ruttenberg for several alleged drug crimes, although he was never charged. The local narcotics task force had tried unsuccessfully to get a warrant to search Ruttenberg’s office but were denied by a judge. Instead, they simply brought along several representatives of the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and claimed that they were conducting an alcohol inspection. Ruttenberg was cited only for three alcohol violations, based on two bottles of beer a distributor had left that weren’t clearly marked as samples, and a bottle of vodka they found in his private office.

In June 2006, Ruttenberg filed a civil rights suit alleging that, among other things, using a SWAT team to conduct an alcohol inspection was an unreasonable use of force. (The town’s vendetta against Ruttenberg stretched on for years and is one of the strangest cases I’ve ever encountered. He eventually sold his bar and moved to New York.) In 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied his claim. So for now, in the Fourth Circuit, sending a SWAT team to make sure a bar’s beer is labeled correctly is not a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

By the end of the decade, state and local SWAT teams were regularly being used not only for raids on poker games and gambling operations but also for immigration raids (on both businesses and private homes) and raids on massage parlors, cat houses, and unlicensed strip clubs. Today the sorts of offenses that can subject a citizen to the SWAT treatment defy caricature. If the government wants to make an example of you by pounding you with a wholly disproportionate use of force, it can. It’s rare that courts or politicians even object, much less impose consequences.

Another example is the use of these tactics on people suspected of downloading child pornography. Because people suspected of such crimes are generally considered among the lowest of the low, there’s generally little objection to using maximum force to apprehend them. But when police use force to demonstrate disgust for the crimes the target is suspected of committing, there’s always a risk of letting disgust trump good judgment. In one recent case in West Virginia, police violently stormed a house after a Walmart employee reported seeing an image of a man’s genitals near a child’s cheek in a set of photos a customer had left at the store to be developed. After terrorizing the customer’s family (he was out of town), the police learned that the cheek in the photo wasn’t a child’s but that of a thirty-five-year-old Filipino woman.

Given that most child pornography investigations today involve people who use the Internet to find or distribute the offending images and videos, the investigations can be fraught with problems. There have been several instances in recent years of police waging child porn raids on people after tracing IP addresses, only to learn after the fact that the victims of the raid had an open wireless router that someone else had used to download the pornography. Inevitably, the lesson drawn by police and by the media covering these stories is not that a SWAT raid may be an inappropriate way to arrest someone suspected of looking at child porn on a computer, or that police who insist on using such tactics should probably factor the possibility of an open router into their investigation before breaking down someone’s door, but rather that we should all make sure our wireless routers are password-protected — so we too don’t get wrongly raided by a SWAT team, too.

It can also be difficult to trace an IP address to a physical address, which can lead to yet more mistaken raids. An example of that problem manifested in one of the more bizarre botched raids in recent years. It took place in September 2006, when a SWAT team from the Bedford County sheriff’s department stormed the rural Virginia home of A. J. Nuckols, his wife, and their two children. Police had traced the IP address of someone trading child porn online to the Nuckols’ physical address. They had made a mistake. As if the shock of having his house invaded by a SWAT team wasn’t enough, Nuckols was in for another surprise. In a letter to the editor of the Chatham Star Review, he described the raid: “Men ran at me, dropped into shooting position, double-handed semi-automatic pistols pointed at me, and made me put my hands against my truck. I was held at gunpoint, searched, taunted, and led into the house. I had no idea what this was about. I was scared beyond description.”

He then looked up, and saw … former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.

O’Neal, an aspiring lawman, had been made an “honorary deputy” with the department. Though he had no training as a SWAT officer, Shaq apparently had gone on several such raids with other police departments around the country. The thrill of bringing an untrained celebrity along apparently trumped the requirement that SWAT teams be staffed only with the most elite, most highly qualified and best-trained cops. According to Nuckols, O’Neal reached into Nuckols’s pickup, snatched up his (perfectly legal) rifle, and exclaimed, “We’ve got a gun!” O’Neal told Time that Nuckols’s description of the raid on his home was exaggerated. “It ain’t no story,” he said. “We did everything right, went to the judge, got a warrant. You know, they make it seem like we beat him up, and that never happened. We went in, talked to him, took some stuff, returned it — bada bam, bada bing.”

Incidentally, there have been other strange incidents of SWAT teams with star power. Matt Damon accompanied SWAT officers on several raids while preparing for the movie “The Departed.” And after police mistakenly shot and killed immigrant and father Ismael Mena on a raid in Denver in 1999, they revealed that Colorado Rockies first baseman Mike Lansing had gone along for the ride. Denver police added that it was fairly common to take sports stars on drug raids.

In 2010 a massive Maricopa County SWAT team, including a tank and several armored vehicles, raided the home of Jesus Llovera. The tank in fact drove straight into Llovera’s living room. Driving the tank? Action movie star Steven Seagal, whom Sheriff Joe Arpaio had recently deputized. Seagal had also been putting on the camouflage to help Arpaio with his controversial immigration raids. All of this, by the way, was getting caught on film. Seagal’s adventures in Maricopa County would make up the next season of the A&E TV series Steven Seagal, Lawman. Llovera’s suspected crime? Cockfighting. Critics said that Arpaio and Seagal brought an army to arrest a man suspected of fighting chickens to play for the cameras. Seagal’s explanation for the show of force: “Animal cruelty is one of my pet peeves.” All of Llovera’s chickens were euthanized. During the raid, the police also killed his dog.

 

 

 
From: EdGlaze DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host7/13/13 6:40 PM 
To: All  (10 of 46) 
 1202.10 in reply to 1202.9 

In the end, while the Supreme Court has laid down some avoidable requirements for obtaining a no-knock warrant (or deciding to conduct a no-knock raid at the scene), there are few court decisions, laws, or regulations when it comes to when it is and isn’t appropriate to use a SWAT team and all the bells and whistles of a dynamic entry. The decision is almost always left to the discretion of the police agency — or in the case of the multi-jurisdictional task forces, to the SWAT team itself. The mere fact that there’s actually a split in the federal court system over the appropriateness of using SWAT teams to perform regulatory alcohol inspections at bars shows just how little attention the courts pay to the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement.

In other words, if the DEA wants to stick it to medical marijuana users because they’re flouting federal law, they can. If Steven Seagal wants to drive a tank into a man’s living room to demonstrate his love of animals, he can. If the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) wants to send a SWAT team to a physicist’s house to show that it’s cracking down on illegal bottle rockets, it can. At worst, the DEA, the CPSC, and Steven Seagal will be chastised by a judge after the fact, though that seldom happens. Even on the rare occasions when someone actually gets into court and wins an excessive-force lawsuit stemming from a raid, the damages are usually borne by taxpayers, not by the cops who used excessive force. In some cases, community outrage and bad press have persuaded police agencies to change a policy here or there regarding the deployment of their SWAT teams. But if they want to reneg and go back to breaking down the doors of people suspected of stealing decorative fish, there’s very little to stop them.

Toward the end of the 2000s there were hints that the public was beginning to want a change, though that desire could manifest in unexpected ways. A former colleague at the Cato Institute, Tim Lynch, has told me that when he gives talks about the Waco raid, he finds that people are somewhat sympathetic to the argument that the government overreacted, but that they still can’t get past the weirdness of the Branch Davidians themselves—their stockpile of weapons and the claims of sexual abuse and drug distribution in the community. Even the children who died are sometimes dismissed with guilt by association. But when he mentions that the ATF agents killed the Davidians’ dogs, Lynch tells me, people become visibly angry. I have found the same thing to be true in my reporting on drug raids.

At first, that may seem to indicate that people callously value the lives of pets more than the lives of people. But the fact that killing the dog during these raids has become nearly routine in many police agencies demonstrates just how casually those agencies have come to accept drug war collateral damage. When I started logging cop-shoots-dog incidents on my blog (under the probably sensational term “puppycide”), people began sending me new stories as they happened. Cops are now shooting dogs at the slightest provocation. As of this writing, I’m sent accounts of a few incidents each week.

It’s difficult to say if this is happening more frequently. There are no national figures, and estimates are all over the map. One dog handler recently hired to train a police department in Texas estimates there are up to 250,000 cop-shoots-dog cases each year. That seems high. In 2009 Randal Lockwood of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he sees 250 to 300 incidents per year in media reports, and he estimates that another 1,000 aren’t reported. The Indianapolis Star reported that between 2000 and 2002 police in that city shot 44 dogs. A recent lawsuit filed by the Milwaukee owner of a dog killed by cops found that police in that city killed 434 dogs over a nine-year period, or about one every seven and a half days. But those figures aren’t all that helpful. They don’t say how many of those dogs were actually vicious, how many were strays, or how many were injured and perhaps killed as an act of mercy versus how many were unjustified killings of pets.

What is clear is that police are almost always cleared of any wrongdoing in these shootings. An officer’s word that he felt a dog posed a threat to his safety is generally all it takes. Whether or not the officer’s fear was legitimate doesn’t seem to matter. Thanks to smart phones and surveillance cameras, a growing batch of these incidents have been caught on video have shown that officers’ claims that the dog was threatening often aren’t matched by the dog’s body language. In recent years, police officers have shot and killed chihuahuas, golden retrievers, labs, miniature dachshunds, Wheaton terriers, and Jack Russell terriers. In 2012 a California police officer shot and killed a boxer puppy and pregnant chihuahua, claiming the boxer had threatened him. The chihuahua, he said, got caught in the crossfire. Police officers have also recently shot dogs that were chained, tied, or leashed, going so far as to kill pets while merely questioning neighbors about a crime in the area, cutting across private property while in pursuit of a suspect, and after responding to false burglar alarms.

It’s possible that these incidents could just be attributed to rogue cops. But the fact that the police are nearly always excused in these cases — even in the more ridiculous examples — suggests there may be an institutional problem. So does the fact that only a handful of police departments give their cops any training at all when it comes to reading and handling the dogs they may encounter. In a 2012 article for the Huffington Post, my intern J. L. Greene and I looked at twenty-four recent cases of “puppycide” and called the relevant police departments to inquire about training. Only one department could confirm that its officers received training at the time of the incident in question. (Eleven departments did not return our phone calls.) That jibes with an earlier article I wrote for The Daily Beast in which both the ASPCA and the Humane Society told me that they offer such training to any police department that wants it, while few take advantage of the offer. Joseph Pentangelo, the ASPCA’s assistant director for law enforcement, who also served twenty-one years with the NYPD, told me, “New York is the only state I know of that mandates formalized training, and that’s during academy. There are some individual departments in other parts of the country that avail themselves of our training, but not many. Not enough.”

 

 

 
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