Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Quickies: Tragedy Begets Sanity

     Or at least, a halting step toward sanity:

     HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo says 'no-knock' warrants will end on his watch after the controversial raid that left a man and his wife dead on the southeast side....

     "Nobody is as pissed off as me," Acevedo told the crowd. "There's a lot of good work going on. One or two people have taken relationships and taken community relationships back decades, and it pisses me off."

     I am unfamiliar with what any court has said about “no-knock” raids. If a federal court has ruled on such things, it would have to contrive some sort of legal exception to the Fourth Amendment:

     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.

     I can’t see it. How could there be any exception to the plain wording of the amendment without destroying all basis for the stated right? Never mind that there have been so many erroneous “no-knock” raids, that innocent people have been killed, have had their homes and lives destroyed, and have often faced criminal charges for acting to defend themselves against the invasion of their property. Never mind the numerous cases of “SWATting,” in which maliciously inclined persons have used police power to disrupt the lives of those they dislike. And never mind that there is no way to get your reputation back once one’s neighbors have seen the police at your doorstep.

     In the case cited here, the Houston police killed two entirely innocent persons. That’s an outrage of the highest degree. But what if those persons had possessed some sort of contraband? The usual excuse for a “no-knock” raid is the presence of drugs that can be easily destroyed should the possessor have any warning that the police are coming. Given the significant probability that a “no-knock” raid on the home of someone who would face felony changes for what he possesses will eventuate in lethal violence, how can anyone rationalize it? Is it reasonable that a man should face the prospect of death by gunfire for such a thing?

     I know, I know: I’m a hopeless idealist who thinks people should be free to own whatever they can rightfully acquire without legal consequences. Totally out of step with the hyper-paternalistic ethos of our era. But I leave those of you who are supporters of the War on (Some) Drugs with a question: How many persons, innocent or otherwise, must lose their lives to police-state tactics before you concede that there’s something wrong with the law? Were the law and its enforcers to target something you prize – say, your guns – would you feel the same way as you do about the War on (Some) Drugs and the tactics used to prosecute it?


pc-not said...

Couldn't agree with you more. The warrantless house to house searches by multiple layers of law enforcement, televised following the Boston bombing sent chills up my spine. Having an M-16 pointed at your family while being forced out of your own house was accepted by so many sheeple.

Amy Bowersox said...

So much of what gets accomplished with no-knock raids could be accomplished in other, less dangerous ways. For example, keep the house under surveillance, wait until the target of the investigation leaves, and trail him elsewhere so he can be arrested in a quieter fashion. You know...actual police work.

But police officers get lazy, and besides, that wouldn't give the SWAT guys an excuse to play with their shiny toys.

Heilong said...

Exactly right, Amy. Koresh was on the phone with a gun store owner I think and some feds came in to the store. Koresh was told that and he said to tell the feds that they were welcome to come out to his place and examine his rifles. The feds indicated to the store owner that they weren't interested. And, of course, Koresh could easily have been arrested while out and about. It was out and out murder.

An expert on IR analyzed the footage of one armored approach to the Koresh compound. I don't recall which one. He concluded that the feds fired first. The expert later died though I'll stop short of saying his death was fishy. I just don't remember.

Bill, I can't say I'm outraged by the police behavior you describe. It was an extraordinary situation more resembling warfare than law enforcement and if you saw that very good movie about the whole incident the brothers were packing some considerable firepower and intent on more murder.

The entry of any police to those homes would not have passed muster under the "exigent circumstances" exception to the warrant requirement. I doubt people misunderstood the motives of the police and supported their search wholeheartedly. There was no danger of anyone's stuff being admissible in evidence in any prosecution. Nor do I think weapons were pointed AT homeowners. At the ready is for sure. At is unlikely.

That time contrasts with the house-to-house National Guard confiscation of weapons in New Orleans where there was no open warfare. It was as outrageous as it's ever been.

Rick C said...

"Nor do I think weapons were pointed AT homeowners."

I'm pretty sure I remember a picture someone took at the time from their second-floor window, looking down at the cops in the street, with at least one cop pointing a rifle up at the window and the people in it.

Shell said...

A few days ago the 68-year-old mayor of a tiny Florida town was arrested before dawn by a SWAT team who, according to their report, knocked and announced their presence before trying to break down his door with a ram as well as trying to shoot the hinges off it with a shotgun *before they noticed the door opened outward*. When they got the door open he fired two shots at them with a pistol and now is charged with a raft of offenses against "law enforcement officers" in addition to the one the raid was mounted for...practicing medicine without a license.

Words fail me.

Reg T said...

Fran, I don't know how the Feds - often the U.S. Attorney for a particular district - can do asset forfeiture without violating the restrictions of the Fourth Amendment. Yet they do. They go further beyond the initial violation by charging the _property_ that they seize with the crime, rather than the owner, making it more difficult and costly to get it back. That fiction is ludicrous. Fighting to get it back is often more expensive than the value of the property - even real estate, as opposed to personal property.

Furthermore, the victim has to prove he has a legal right to the property seized - the reverse of the "innocent until proven guilty" standing by which we are supposedly protected. So, if you kept a bunch of cash in your safe at home, which was searched under some pretense by law enforcement, they could grab it and make you prove how and where you obtained it. I don't know any people in particular that are doing this, but if , for example, they were selling stuff at a weekly swap meet and didn't keep records, they could lose whatever they had saved there.

I don't know if it is still the case, but not long after asset forfeiture was provided as a tool to law enforcement - for the purpose of harassing alleged drug dealers and distributors - the scum at DOJ were incentivized by their bosses in doing this by being told they were expected to fund their office partly through asset forfeiture, which caused a lot of innocent people to suffer their predation. I am guessing most of this is still taking place, although the liberal media doesn't have much to say about it.