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October 2008
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Signs of sickness in our society

“bullet” Via Radley Balko comes a letter from Kent Corbett – a Milwauke police detective and former SWAT officer – who defends the actions of police in the horrible raid on Mayor Cheye Calvo and his family (where the dogs were killed and the innocent family terrorized with no investigative work by the police). Corbett writes:

As a former S.W.A.T. team member and a current homicide detective with the Milwaukee police department, I must take issue with the tone of a paragraph in ‹The WeekŠ (September 1). The piece addresses the Cheye Calvo incident, in which police raided a Maryland mayor‰s home looking for drugs, killed his dogs, and restrained him and his mother-in-law. It turned out the man was innocent.
I have personally been involved in the execution of no-knock search warrants, the killing of dogs during those executions, and the investigations of numerous drug-related homicides and officer-involved shootings. Yes, no-knock warrants are issued to avoid the destruction of evidence such as drugs, but they are also issued to protect the officers executing those warrants. In addition, each warrant requires a judge‰s authorization, and obviously the available evidence satisfied the judge in this case.
Sorry if Calvo and his mother-in-law were ‹restrainedŠ for ‹almost two hours.Š Would you rather have them be comfortable for those two hours, and risk officers‰ lives and safety? Calvo should be able to understand what the officers did and why they did it.
Municipal police departments do fight a war on the streets of this country daily. This incident should not be considered overkill (to take a word from Reason‰s Radley Balko), but sound police tactics. As soon as some police administrator starts to second-guess the training and experience of the officers charged with doing these types of investigations, someone will get hurt or killed. Drug investigations are inherently dangerous, and so is the Monday-morning quarterbacking you are doing.
Kent Corbett
Milwaukee, Wis.

What kind of system allows such a malignant tumor to exist within our law enforcement ranks unchecked? This is such a perversion of America – a repudiation of everything for which we stand. Does Kent Corbett put out an American flag on national holidays? Does he know what it means?
“bullet” Here’s one that’s a little subtler, but a sickness nonetheless.

JOLIET — Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Knick, a member of the Drug Prosecution Unit, and administrative assistant, Kathy Kearney, the secretary supervisor for the unit, were recognized by the Illinois Metropolitan Enforcement Group Directors’ and Task Force Commanders’ Association, Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow announced.
Knick and Kearney were honored for their work in processing 858 narcotics cases during 2007 and 2008. The conviction rate for these cases was 95 percent.
“I congratulate Mike Knick and Kathy Kearney on receiving this prestigious honor and for going above and beyond their duties to fight the war against drugs in Will County,” Glasgow said. “Mike and Kathy, along with my entire Drug Prosecution Unit, have worked tirelessly with the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad ( MANS ) and our local police departments over the past four years.
“The unit has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of search warrants granted to detectives who are conducting narcotics investigations.”

The sickness here is using the benchmark of quantity in dealing with drug issues (or criminal justice issues in general). And we see that far too often in campaigns for prosecutors and Attorneys General. All about the numbers of people prosecuted and the numbers of convictions achieved, like points in a basketball game.
In prosecuting, it takes more than scoring points to be a true success, and prosecution “points” are costly, both in terms of the financial cost to taxpayers of prison and prosecution, and in the effect on lives, sometimes innocent ones.
I would like to see a prosecutor running for office who says:

I was a good steward of your money and your trust. I made efficient use of jail time and prosecution resources to lock up the most dangerous criminals, while finding alternatives for non-violent criminals when possible. I refused to waste your tax dollars on cases that didn’t deserve to be in a courtroom, and I made extra effort to insure that innocent citizens were not convicted nor put through a damaging criminal justice process.

But I don’t hear that much. What I hear is prosecutors bragging about breaking scoring records, as if that means they get to go to the regional finals.

Michigan

“I think it’s unconscionable that the medical use of marijuana is not legal. … We can do better”

Yes on Proposal 1.