Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Columbia Police Change SWAT Policies

Last week, a video emerged of a SWAT raid on a home. The raid occurred in February. You can see the video below. In it, a paramilitary SWAT team is seen approaching a home. They knock a couple times, announce they have a search warrant and then, without warning, break the door open.

What you hear next is a dog barking. Then a gunshot, followed by the sound of a dog screaming in pain. the dog is then shot several more times, ending in her death. Another dog was left wounded. The shooting occurred inside a home where a young child was present.

There is a moment in the video when the owner of the dog realizes his dog has been shot. You hear him cry.

All officers found was paraphernalia and a misdemeanor amount of marijuana.

Recently,the Columbia Police Chief spoke about the incident and the changes that will now be implemented. One new rule is that raids will not occur with children present, except under extreme circumstances. Other changes include forced entries and surveillance requirements after a search warrant is issued.

Nothing will change about how dogs will be handled. A dog who does nothing more than bark and who looks a certain way will be killed.

The only reason the Police Chief is revising its paramilitary policies is because of public outcry. Amazing, really. A lot of people have been upset by this case.

But according to the chief of police, it's only the marijuana-legalizing advocates, animal rights activists and cop haters who are outraged. Goodness forbid regular folks, like parents and dog owners, might find the entire debacle offensive and frightening.

Let me share a story. Where I grew up, my duplex neighbor had a meth lab. By pure chance, two DEA (drug enforcement agency) agents approached me and my mom. They had the address wrong. That is, they had our address down as the neighbor's. Had we not encountered these two agents, two weeks later, it could have been my barking dog (a non Pit Bull) dead, my dad on the ground, me and my mom huddling in the corner as paramilitary SWAT officers raided our home in the dead of night. Instead it was my neighbor with his girlfriend and 2-yr-old son present.

Mistakes can result in death and injury. It can result in terror and ruin lives. Waging war on pot users just seems so, I don't know, pointless.

Of course, I can't help but be reminded of another infamous SWAT raid in Prince George County, Maryland in 2008. SWAT didn't even knock (the no-knock part of the warrant is disputed). They busted down the door of another city's mayor. The mayor's two dogs, Labrador Retrievers, were shot and killed. The necropsy showed the dogs were both running away when they were gunned down. The mayor wasn't a drug dealer. He was an upstanding citizen, victim of a drug-trafficking scam.

Victims of drug raids rarely get this kind of publicity. They're not mayors. Victims of drug raids are generally persons of color in very poor areas without any meaningful legal recourse. They don't get publicity. They don't get justice. And they aren't generally large scale producers of illegal contraband, narcotics or other illicit substances.

I mean, do we need paramilitary law enforcement agents busting down doors and blowing away pets based on hunches that turn out to be egregiously wrong? 


Jennie said...

I cried for about 15 minutes (at work) when I watched the video. The dog's screams when they are shot, the man's screams when he finds out his dogs have been shot are so painful. Maybe that's what is resonating so strongly with people - this guy wasn't some kind of horrible monster who "deserved what he got", just a normal guy who loved his dogs.

I'm sick of hearing excuses on behalf of law enforcement and government agencies. How many news stories per week do we hear about family dogs being shot by police during a forced entry? How many of those are preventable by simply making some simple changes and implementing a standard policy for assessing the situation and dealing with dogs in a non-lethal manner? Why do we expect dogs to just sit calmly while their homes are invaded by people they don't know for reasons they can't possibly understand?

PoochesForPeace said...

These stories just make me feel so angry and helpless. Not that that helps this problem, but it's how i feel anyway.

Our New Beginning said...

Mind you that the "pit bull" that was shot and killed was KENNELED in the kitchen. How is a kenneled dog a threat?? Makes you wonder if after they first shot her, saw she was a bully breed, and then proceeded to kill her. Especially since the Corgi was only left wounded.

I cried, makes me sick.

Then I wonder, how is less than one gram of weed and a pipe make this guy a big time drug dealer??

Guess I should be waiting for my door to be knocked down next LOL