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WaPo Feb 2010 article on 2008 PGCP SWAT Raid

Discussion in 'Cop Talk' started by RickD, Mar 2, 2010.

  1. RickD

    RickD Pro-Open Curry Millennium Member

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    This is interesting. Consider it an update.

    Recall, circa 2008 the SWAT unit that did an entry into a small town mayor's home and shot his two black labs over a 32 pound box of marijuana that someone had addressed to him?

    Original thread here: http://www.glocktalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=906692&highlight=Berwyn+Heights

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    Earlier this month the Washington Post did a follow-up.

    http://media3.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/photo/2009/01/30/PH2009013001938.jpg

    I found it via a link at this Reason.com article on SWAT raids

    http://reason.com/archives/2010/03/01/45-swat-raids-per-day

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    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  2. lawman800

    lawman800 Juris Glocktor

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    It just keeps getting better, don't it?
    Sad all around...
     

  3. spdski

    spdski NRA Life Member CLM

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    I remember reading about this when it first happened.

    While the fact that they guy is the mayor is irrelevant, the observation of that house should have clued them in about the need for a dynamic SWAT entry and a no-knock.

    This is one of those very few cases where you will see me siding against the police.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  4. RonboF117

    RonboF117

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    Hmmm ... IF the facts of the case are as stated - it doesn't look good for the Police dept. My standard caveat applies – the opinions are mine alone and are based on the evidence and statements as described in the article presented.

    As I understand the legal implications here, if a warrant is not served procedurally correct in the manner stated in the warrant (time, place, method of delivery, scope of search) as a minimum, any evidence seized can easily be suppressed as “fruit of the poisoned tree”. However, in this case, I don't think the Defendant (the Mayor) would want it suppressed. Also, in certain cases, and this appears to be one of them, the homeowners actually could have legally engaged the officers with deadly force to counter their entry.

    "Narcotics investigators for the Prince George's police had apparently left that white box on his front step, then sent SWAT officers from the Sheriff's Office to retrieve it. The box contained marijuana. Officers from the two county law enforcement agencies had apparently been parked watching his house all day."

    The term "Due Diligence" comes to mind here. Did they do any research on the address or occupants? Apparently not.

    "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."

    True enough. A few thoughts though.

    1. There is an escalating scale or "staircase effect" on how and why a police officer may enter a residence. The courts have held the home has the highest Reasonable Expectation of Privacy (normally refereed to as REP) and that evidence seized must follow the "right to be - right to see". If you don't have the right to be there, you don't have the right to see what's there. Lawful presence and lawful access have different burdens of proof. Again, I would like to see the exact verbiage included in the search warrant.

    2. I would like to know how they intend to defend the claim that once the person screamed they entered so the evidence would not be destroyed.

    “Jackson said his deputies were justified in entering the house so forcefully because Georgia screamed when she saw them outside the house, and her cries could have alerted any armed occupants of the home to attack police or destroy evidence.”

    Really? 30 lbs of marijuana is pretty hard to destroy quickly so the "destruction of evidence" claim will have little to no foundation (or in legal vernacular - their argument would lack merit). The 'fleeting nature" argument could have been used describing the evidence if it was a smaller amount and it a different form (i.e. a baggy of cocaine that could be quickly flushed).

    "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."

    "I later learned," Murphy said in an interview, "that none of that is true."


    Hmmm, I thought their reason for quick entry was because, “Georgia screamed”.

    Those two statements are really going to hurt later. Besides, the person screaming after seeing the officers is quite easily defended … normal reaction.

    3. The firearms argument would work if they could articulate why they thought the persons inside would have weapons, they’d be readily accessible, and would have a willingingness to use them against police.

    4. Shooting the dogs is easy if you can articulate why. A barking dog, in a well lit, owner-occupied room, not actively engaged in aggressive behavior, will be tough to defend a claim against. In this case (not a clandestine nighttime op where a barking dog exposes agents in a large open area) a barking dog alone does not justify its death.

    On Friday, Aug. 1 -- 71 hours after the raid -- the lead detective, Scarlata, returned to their home. He came alone. Cheye met him at the fence. The detective handed Cheye the warrant he had first asked to see while handcuffed in his living room.

    I’m not well-versed in MD law, but normally warrants must be “in hand and delivered” at the time the warrant is executed (or at least by the time you exit).

    "Nearly four hours after the SWAT team broke down the front door, the detectives were ready to leave."

    Seems like a pretty excessive timeframe. Visual and/or canine search should have fulfilled the scope of the warrant much quicker than that.

    As the case goes forward, I can imagine the discussion btwn the Judge/Grand Jury and the DA would be pretty one-sided with the DA on the receiving end. Something to the effect of, "Let me get this straight. You deliver a package of marijuana to this specific address. You do not gather any intel on the house or its occupants during the selection and observation process. The occupants of this address accept delivery of said package by bringing it inside. You approach the dwelling where your presence is noted by an occupant eliciting a response of surprise. Upon entering, you do not announce yourself, you do not produce a warrant valid for the type of entry and search being conducted, you shoot the owner's barking but not aggressive dogs, and after four hours the only illicit contraband you recover is the package, you, yourself delivered to the occupants. Do I have my facts correct?"

    I, in no way, want this to come off as a "bash the police" rant. These are just some comments (and not exhaustive at that) on the case as stated in the previous post. Think of it as a "Moot Court" case being discussed by law students or police/deputy recruits during an academy classroom discussion. I would expect a good law professor or academy instructor could take a full day (maybe two) describing the case law and State/local policies involved in this incident.

    The bottom line is law enforcement professionals, no matter where or what flavor, have a tough job to do. However, in the execution of that job we have to remember that doing things the right way many times means it takes a lot longer than doing it the quick way.

    Be safe.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2010
  5. RickD

    RickD Pro-Open Curry Millennium Member

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    The Reason.com article points to a law change in Maryland which requires reporting of SWAT raid stats:

    http://reason.com/archives/2010/03/01/45-swat-raids-per-day

    The lawsuit is moving forward, slowly:

    An interest in further legislation:

     
  6. Morris

    Morris CLM

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    A judge's signature before deployment of advanced assets? What kind of crack smoking fool idea is that? Guessing the time it takes to obtain a judge, sober them up, get the paperwork in front of them, explain the necessity and then get a signature means we might as well start staging morgue wagons for the inevitable.

    When you start micro-managing police operations from a political aspect, you get Columbine.