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May 2010
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Making a difference

In case you missed it in comments, I just wanted to point out readers here doing some important work.

In my post about the Judge Napolitano video, I suggested:

Now, find out who your local alderman is, or whatever the most local unit of government is in your area. Send them the link to this video, and say that you’re concerned that something like this could happen in your town. Ask him/her to find out what the local policy is regarding use of militarized raids against citizens, and urge that the policy be examined in light of this.

Maria took advantage of the opportunity:

Sent this link to all the FOX biz and FOX news watchers in my life who lean towards more conservative and business values – check (promising feedback so far..)

Sent links to original video and links to left leaning commentary and media to CNN and and MSNBC – check

Will be sending to local conservative, good ol’ boy mayor once I track down email – check

Gift horse rode – check

Dano gave it a shot

Well, I contacted all my government reps: city, county, state, federal. Only took a few minutes to draft an email and then fill in all those forms for each. I don’t expect my simple email to make a difference, but if there are enough of us making noise the government tends to at least feign listening. It’s a step…

and guess what happened almost immediately

I sent email out to all of the local city council, which in turn forwarded the request for more information to the local PD. As long as they know we are watching it makes it harder for them to let controls deteriorate to the level of this video.

Here’s the PD spokesperson response:

I am a captain with the our local city Police Department and I’m in charge of the Support Services Division which includes our SWAT team. Councilmember Friedman referred your inquiry to the police department for response.

I have reviewed your email and the Fox News video. To say the least, the video is shocking, and I understand your fears about a similar situation potentially occurring in our local city. I would like to provide you with some information about out policies and protocols for the use of SWAT.

First of all, our SWAT team was formed in late 1997. Since that time the team has served numerous high-risk search and arrest warrants and handled many barricaded dangerous suspect incidents. I am probably jinxing out record by saying this, but in all of this time our SWAT team has not been the basis for a lawsuit against the City of our local city.

This is my home town and I have worked for the police department for 29 years. I would prefer to not have a SWAT team, but in this megalopolis of 10M+ people and our proximity to high crime areas of Los Angeles, a SWAT team is a necessity. Statistics show that when a SWAT team is properly used, the possibility for injury or death of an officer, citizen or suspect is decreased. This is because a properly trained and equipped SWAT team takes extraordinary steps to avoid direct confrontation with an armed and dangerous suspect.

In our local city, all SWAT deployments, except in an immediate emergency, must be approved by the chief of police. Our SWAT team is not used for “routine” search warrant service – even in drug dealing circumstances. The video of the Missouri SWAT team appears to be a “routine” warrant service that would not be approved in our local city. While the following is not an exhaustive list, SWAT is essentially deployed only in the following circumstances:

Where an armed suspect is barricaded, refuses to surrender and is believed to be capable of killing or inflicting serious injury on a citizen or a police officer Where a location of a search/arrest warrant is fortified, barricaded or reinforced in such a manner exceeding the capabilities of regular police officers to carry out the warrant service and other means of gaining entry to the location are not viable
Where a suspect is believed to be armed, dangerous or threatening and there is a likelihood of an armed confrontation if conventional police tactics are employed

I’m not sure how search warrants are issued in Missouri, but in California an untested, unreliable informant cannot be used as the sole basis for a search/arrest warrant. The police must independently establish probable cause substantiating that evidence of a crime is at a particular location. The probably cause is then presented to a judge (in writing except in extreme emergencies where an oral/recorded affidavit is presented) who then makes a determination as to whether or not probable cause exists for the issuance of a warrant. Once a warrant has been issued by a judge, it must be served by a peace officer in a timely fashion.

Generally, if SWAT is requested for the service of a search warrant, the situation must be evaluated and meet the above criteria. The SWAT team and detectives then conduct database searches and actual reconnaissance of the location to determine if there are factors which might indicate that a warrant should NOT be served – such as the presence of children, elderly persons, etc. SWAT always looks for alternatives to serving a “dynamic” warrant such as the one depicted in the Fox News video. Two common alternatives are (1) placing a location under surveillance and following away suspects when they leave so that they may be arrested on the street, away from a location. Detectives may then return to the location and serve the search warrant, presumably, on a vacant location. And (2) where use of a SWAT team is warranted, SWAT may surround the location and “call out” any suspects. When the suspects come outside, they are detained and the SWAT team then slowly and methodically searches the location, which is presumably empty.

I think I’ve provided more information than you requested, but I wanted to give you comfort that the our local city Police Department does not have a SWAT team that is used indiscriminately. In the proper situation a SWAT team can save lives – and that is the primary mission of SWAT.

Good work, team.

How about the rest of you? What are you doing? Are you getting results?

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8 comments to Making a difference

  • Dano

    I don’t want to toot my own horn, because I don’t follow up on these things nearly enough, but even a simple personally drafted email about current issues, concerns or topics seems to make a dent. Local level politicians don’t get this type of attention much, and yet they are the ones to really guide these policies.

    Peter gave us the idea, so kudos to Peter!

  • Windy

    I got a response from one member of my county’s council. I’d emailed my concern and the link to the video to the local police chief, the city and county councils and the mayor. His response:
    “Thank you for sending that video. It was upsetting. Not knowing your
    political leanings or intentions, I am not sure if your conclusion is
    that “the War on Drugs” is an overwrought counterproductive waste of
    resources, or that the “government” has become a fascist, repressive
    regime (because of Bush or Obama, depending on your leaning).

    “What would you like the County to do?”

    I replied to him:
    I have come to the conclusion that both situations you surmise are true — the “War on Drugs” absolutely is an “overwrought”, “counterproductive”, “waste of resources”; and that the “‘government’ has become a fascist, repressive regime” because of Bush, Obama, and every president back to, and including, Wilson (along with all the congresses since then and SCOTUS, too).

    What I would like the County to do is give me assurance that this kind of tactic will NEVER be used for a non-violent issue/situation/warrant action in our county. SWAT should be reserved for only the most violent of circumstances (hostage taking, terrorist bombers, etc.). I’d also like assurance that our law enforcement officers be well enough trained to avoid shooting a family pet in ANY situation, they should call animal control or the humane society to the scene, instead. The “shoot first and ask questions later” tactic is absolutely unacceptable in a supposedly free country.

  • Windy

    Oops, forgot to mention that was early morning, I never got a response to my reply. And I also sent the link for the video to my state legislators. Haven’t heard from any of them, yet, either.

  • Scott

    I posted two comments (so far) in the WSJ comments section under the heavily-conservative opinion piece titled “The We’re Not Europe Party”. Here is what I posted:

    “Wall Street’s business is being criminalized.”

    What is the sole constitutional basis for this criminalizing? The Commerce Clause, which in its entirety says:

    “To regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;”

    Our supreme court interprets that clause:

    “To regulate any activity having a substantial affect on interstate commerce.”

    The ‘free’ growth, ‘free’ distribution, and ‘free’ possession of cannabis (all within a single state) have been banned solely due to the Commerce Clause (i.e. such acts have a substantial affect on interstate commerce), confirmed by our Supreme Court in 2005 (Gonzales v. Raich).

    Without the ‘substantial affect’ interpretation, any rational person can clearly see that somewhere along the legal path of the Commerce Clause, our Supreme Court stopped doing their job to just interpret the law, and started legislating from the bench (a.k.a. judicial activism at the highest level of our judicial branch).

    If simply possessing a plant has that affect, then your thought activity (determining every facet of your buying and selling decisions) certainly has that affect too.

    Rationally, Congress has the authority to regulate your thoughts, according to our Supreme Court.

    “Reefer Madness” is also “Capitalism Madness”.

    If our written American foundation where a fortress, today’s interpretation of the Commerce Clause is a critical breach in a wall with a bunch of liberals/progressives rushing in to take over.

    “We the people” need to pressure our “public servants” hard to restore the original interpretation of our Commerce Clause. That restoration will only happen when the public majority cares enough about our Constitution to prominently and constantly demand it (e.g. via the Tea Party movement).

    This, of course, would also mean ‘legalizing’ marijuana.

    Are you really going to continue sacrificing our country (including capitalism) just to keep marijuana illegal?

    If not, contact the likes of Republican Mark Souder and demand a stop to his support for marijuana prohibition.

    One reply:

    “It is time to take marijuana off the Schedule 1 list where it doesn’t belong.”

    My reply:

    I disagree. It’s time to repeal the Controlled Substances Act on the basis that it’s not even close to being constitutional.

    Alcohol Prohibition required a federal constitutional amendment.

    Alcohol is a drug, scientifically speaking.

    Add that to the Commerce Clause abuse mentioned in my comment above.

    While I certainly understand the need for our society to do what it properly can to prevent abuse in any of its many forms (drugs, sex, food, exercise, etc.), the CSA exemplifies the worst form of abuse given its generally broad scope of destruction, the abuse of power.

    We don’t have a drug-free prison system. Why should “We the people” continue to spend ‘b’illions of taxpayer dollars ‘each year’ in pursuit of a drug-free America?

    Tell Congress to repeal the CSA now.

    People claim that ending drug prohibition would naturally cause drug abuse to explode.

    However, that assumes drug prohibition works, and there is no cost/benefit analysis proving it does.

    Like the ridiculous “jobs saved” statistic, prohibitionists argue that the 8% of Americans currently using illicit drugs amounts to “drug use prevented” for the remaining 92%, even though market saturation is the more likely cause, given that the U.S. has comparable use rates to The Netherlands (where soft drugs are effectively legal from a consumer perspective).

    Reefer Madness is Capitalism Madness.

    Both must stop for the sake of restoring our Constitution, putting down the public servant revolution we’re suffering from now.

    Converting the Republican base to our cause will expedite the end of drug prohibition, and if I have to do that one Republican at a time, then so be it.

    Let us all do whatever we can to end this disastrous policy once and for all.

  • fortyouncer

    Daryl Gates of LAPD played an important part in the beginning of SWAT in this country. The same person who believed casual drug users should be taken out and shot. He’d probably be proud of this video, as he would see it as a step in the right direction.

    It’s good to see the PD respond in the way they did. At least they are concerned. But’s not just SWAT that we should worry about. It’s also your normal PD (at least the ones I see here in Los Angeles). I’ve seen them get geared up for warrants in the early morning hours sometimes (they stage in public parking lots often). They are dressed for battle, much like SWAT. They may not use the same weapons or tactics, but they are also militarizing.

  • auggie

    tested, reliable informant = Fuzzy Dunlop

  • Cannabis

    The best thing that one can do is run for elected office on the local level. You will have more control over things than you think. I am currently retired from politics, but I held appointed and elected offices for five years. I helped keep Tasers out of the hands of our local police. Get a haircut, buy a suit and go make a difference. You’ll be surprised by the positive response that you get.

  • Hes tirednormal variancethe league getting more and more looks at him.