Forum Thread

When local police use the "big hammer" too often

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    "Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail." -- President Barack Obama

    President Obama made that statement at the West Point Commencement ceremonies. He was talking about foreign policy, but his advice should just as well be heeded by state and local police that seem to love all the military equipment being handed them to promote the peace and welfare in their communities. It seems every town now has some big military assault vehicle and a SWAT team to deal with every occasion.

    In Cornelia, Georgia, population 3,834, the local police assisted by a multi-jurisdictional Georgia SWAT team raided the home of a suspected drug dealer at 3:00 am. When the SWAT team hit the home's front door with a battering ram, it resisted as if something was up against it so one of the officers threw a flash-bang grenade inside the residence. The thing blocking the door was a portable playpen, and the flash-bang grenade landed inside the playpen where a 19-month-old child was sleeping.

    The suspected drug dealer was not home. A family from Wisconsin was visiting the relative (the suspected drug dealer) at the time. They were all asleep when the raid occurred. This is the account in RT:

    "Bounkham “Bou Bou” Phonesavanhs, a 19-month-old, was asleep in his portable crib in the same room as his parents and three older sisters, when police opened the door to the converted garage and threw the stun grenade in. It landed in the crib with Bou Bou.

    “Everyone's sleeping. There's a loud bang and a bright light,” the boy’s mother, Alecia Phonesavanh, told WSB-TV. “The cops threw that grenade in the door without looking first, and it landed right in the playpen and exploded on his pillow right in his face.”

    "The multi-jurisdictional Georgia SWAT team was executing a no-knock warrant at 3 a.m. on the home where a confidential informant had purchased drugs earlier in the day."

    "Bou Bou is fighting for his life in the hospital. "He's in the burn unit. We go up to see him and his whole face is ripped open. He has a big cut on his chest," his mother said to WSB-TV. "He's only 19 months old. He didn't do anything."


    RT, May 30, 2014: Toddler critically burned when SWAT team throws flashbang in crib

    I read another version of this story in CNN but it was heavily "watered down."

    No officers have been suspended.

    “Our hearts are broken with them because of the child,” Sheriff Terrell said.

    "We would obviously would have done things different," Terrell said. "We might have gone in through a side door. ... We would not have used a flash bang."

    Oh...but why use the flash bang at all? ...except that they have it...the "big hammer" and a SWAT team that needs to justify its existence.
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    ..."why use the flash-bang at all?"...

    To save lives. That would be my guess.

    Did it need to be used in this one particular case? Who knows.

    Flash bang, like the taser, is a normally non lethal tool that saves lives, but there are going to be occasional bad experiences, as well.

    Why use police cars at all? They save lives, but bad things happen with cars, too.

    The good outweighs the bad.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Did they do a stake out of the place in advance? Obviously not as they didn't know the drug dealer wasn't home, and they didn't know that a family with children was present. What did they do...just drive up at 3:00 am and bust in without any warning? It seems like the police were leaving an awful to chance.

    Oh but the "good outweighs the bad." Tell that to the child's parents.
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    I never said mistakes were not made in this case.

    No, the parents of this child may never understand, and I get that. They will just probably just file a lawsuit, this is America, after all. There are plenty of blood sucking lawyers who will take any case that may pay off. All about MONEY, you know.

    How about the many law enforcement officers whose lives were saved by using flash bang grenades. Their lives count, too.

    "The good outweighs the bad", may be hard for some people to accept, but it's still true.


  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Police have been capturing drug dealers and other criminals as long as there have been police forces. Before the "infiltration" of military toys into those police forces, they relied on old fashioned techniques like surveillance and capture as well as employing their negotiating skills in stand-off situations. Now it seems that they'll drive up in their heavily armored vehicles with a busload of SWAT officers with military assault rifles, flash bang grenades, door hammers, and such and just rush into the premises like a full military assault on a Taliban household in Afghanistan. That's what we've become and that's what I'm questioning. Using the "big hammer" to pound every common nail and tack.

    When I lived in London back in the 1970s and early 1980s, the police (bobbies) didn't even carry guns, and they seemed to get by managing the peace without an intimidating presence. Tourists took pictures with them alongside posing. They were appreciated and revered.

    I find all the militarization of our police forces intimidating. It's just another step towards a police state. The Georgia flash bang grenade is just an example of what could and should have been handled differently had not the police in this small town of 3,800 people become so "Ramboized" in their training to use their military toys first.

    My opinion.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Schmidt Wrote: Police have been capturing drug dealers and other criminals as long as there have been police forces. Before the "infiltration" of military toys into those police forces, they relied on old fashioned techniques like surveillance and capture as well as employing their negotiating skills in stand-off situations. Now it seems that they'll drive up in their heavily armored vehicles with a busload of SWAT officers with military assault rifles, flash bang grenades, door hammers, and such and just rush into the premises like a full military assault on a Taliban household in Afghanistan. That's what we've become and that's what I'm questioning. Using the "big hammer" to pound every common nail and tack.

    When I lived in London back in the 1970s and early 1980s, the police (bobbies) didn't even carry guns, and they seemed to get by managing the peace without an intimidating presence. Tourists took pictures with them alongside posing. They were appreciated and revered.

    I find all the militarization of our police forces intimidating. It's just another step towards a police state. The Georgia flash bang grenade is just an example of what could and should have been handled differently had not the police in this small town of 3,800 people become so "Ramboized" in their training to use their military toys first.

    My opinion.
    I fully share your opinion; I said many times the police recruits here are mostly ex-military, so no wonder this is happening. Like you said in Europe this is not the case and they get taught to interact a certain way with the public. They do not learn that here I presume. I was once stopped for a speeding ticket on a deserted highway. The guy who stopped me acted like I was the Taliban; no manners whatsoever; just a big military bully.

    But yeah they do not understand in this country that any "action" automatically gets a "reaction"; in other words the bad guys will get " tough" too, so it will only escalate. When are they going to learn? Never, I guess as long as "militarism" is embedded in their way of life.
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    Yeah in the "good old days" the cops were capturing the criminals without using..."military assault rifles, flash bang grenades, door hammers, and such"...

    Yep, those were the good ole days, all right, but those days are gone.

    Here's some reality: Both the cops AND the bad guys have more firepower than they did in those days of yore. Maybe some people think the cops should not try to match or exceed the firepower of the criminals and drug dealers. Let's ask the family members, especially the mothers of the cops if our law enforcement should be carrying weapons which match the firepower of the criminals. What do you think THEY would say?

    Remember the famous bank robbery out in California several years back, in Burbank I think? Remember that the two robbers wore full body armor and had automatic rifles and lots of ammo and how the cops were very badly outgunned? Anyone remember that? You think those cops wish they would have been better armed? Well, now many of them are.

    Yes, it would be great to live in the fantasy land where the bad guys only carry knives and brass knucks, or 6 shot revolvers at worst.

    Those days are gone.

    Our police forces are evolving with the times even if some of us are not.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    jamesn Wrote: I never said mistakes were not made in this case.

    No, the parents of this child may never understand, and I get that. They will just probably just file a lawsuit, this is America, after all. There are plenty of blood sucking lawyers who will take any case that may pay off. All about MONEY, you know.

    How about the many law enforcement officers whose lives were saved by using flash bang grenades. Their lives count, too.

    "The good outweighs the bad", may be hard for some people to accept, but it's still true.


    Just because they may sue and get a check doesn't mean that they wouldn't trade that for getting their child's innocence and face back. It's a bad situation and there are no perfect answers or solutions. Plus, what mental damage did this child suffer ? I would think there's some PTSD that will exist here if he's able to survive.
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    Tony you are absolutely right. There is nothing that parents wouldn't give for their child's health.

    No one is suggesting that mistakes were not made in this instance. If there was a drug dealer who lived at this address, then the first mistake was made when he/she decided to be a drug dealer.

    Unfortunately there are mistakes made every day in every walk of life.

    Here's a list of all professions in which no mistakes are made:

    1.

    2.

    3.

    That's the complete list.

    I hope the best for this kid, I hope for a full recovery, but don't know what the chances are.
  • Democrat
    Missouri
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    James,

    1. GOD

    The only profession I could think of that "NO" mistakes were made. Who has the ability to tell God he made a mistake, especially when mankind does not know the end game?
  • Other Party
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    I think former military should be forbidden from being hired by police. We need to demilitarize the police.
  • Other Party
    Nebraska
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    Amc yes I won't disagree with you, but if we are talking about HUMAN BEINGS there is no profession in which we don't make mistakes. That goes for police, firefighters, teachers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Denton, TX
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    Garrus92 Wrote: I think former military should be forbidden from being hired by police. We need to demilitarize the police.
    Disagree. Anyone who serves in the military should not be limited or punished for voluntarily serving the country.

    To even have a discussion about changing that you would need to show that a vast majority of police overreach is caused be veterans. That means you need to find out the percentage of vets in the police force, then you need to show that the percentage of incidents police over reach committed by vets far exceeds the percentage of vets in the police force.
  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    Business Insider, March 24, 2014: Why America's Police Are Becoming So Militarized

    The "baby Bou Bou" case of a SWAT team to find a drug dealer is not an isolated incident.

    "Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University's School of Justice Studies, estimates that SWAT teams were deployed about 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times a year. Some cities use them for routine patrols in high-crime areas. Baltimore and Dallas have used them to break up poker games. In 2010 New Haven, Connecticut sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers.

    "That same year heavily-armed police raided barber shops around Orlando, Florida; they said they were hunting for guns and drugs but ended up arresting 34 people for "barbering without a licence". Maricopa County, Arizona sent a SWAT team into the living room of Jesus Llovera, who was suspected of organising cockfights. Police rolled a tank into Mr Llovera's yard and killed more than 100 of his birds, as well as his dog. According to Mr Kraska, most SWAT deployments are not in response to violent, life-threatening crimes, but to serve drug-related warrants in private homes.

    "Often these no-knock raids take place at night, accompanied by "flash-bang" grenades designed temporarily to blind, deafen and confuse their targets. They can go horribly wrong: Mr Balko has found more than 50 examples of innocent people who have died as a result of botched SWAT raids. Officers can get jumpy and shoot unnecessarily, or accidentally. In 2011 Eurie Stamps, the stepfather of a suspected drug-dealer but himself suspected of no crimes, was killed while lying face-down on the floor when a SWAT-team officer reportedly tripped, causing his gun to discharge.

    "Householders, on hearing the door being smashed down, sometimes reach for their own guns. In 2006 Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman in Atlanta, mistook the police for robbers and fired a shot from an old pistol. Police shot her five times, killing her. After the shooting they planted marijuana in her home. It later emerged that they had falsified the information used to obtain their no-knock warrant."


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    You can read the rest of the article, but as the author points out, there is an economic reason the police like to do the 3:00 am raids with SWAT teams on suspected drug dealers. It is profitable. Rules on civil asset-forfeiture allow the police to seize anything which they can plausibly claim was the proceeds of a crime even if the homeowner is not convicted. The police can confiscate cash in the house and the house itself.

    "Many police departments now depend on forfeiture for a fat chunk of their budgets. In 1986, its first year of operation, the federal Asset Forfeiture Fund held $93.7m. By 2012, that and the related Seized Asset Deposit Fund held nearly $6 billion."

    Kind of reminds me of our "take prisoners for profit" prison system. Follow the money.
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Schmidt Wrote: Business Insider, March 24, 2014: Why America's Police Are Becoming So Militarized

    The "baby Bou Bou" case of a SWAT team to find a drug dealer is not an isolated incident.

    "Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University's School of Justice Studies, estimates that SWAT teams were deployed about 3,000 times in 1980 but are now used around 50,000 times a year. Some cities use them for routine patrols in high-crime areas. Baltimore and Dallas have used them to break up poker games. In 2010 New Haven, Connecticut sent a SWAT team to a bar suspected of serving under-age drinkers.

    "That same year heavily-armed police raided barber shops around Orlando, Florida; they said they were hunting for guns and drugs but ended up arresting 34 people for "barbering without a licence". Maricopa County, Arizona sent a SWAT team into the living room of Jesus Llovera, who was suspected of organising cockfights. Police rolled a tank into Mr Llovera's yard and killed more than 100 of his birds, as well as his dog. According to Mr Kraska, most SWAT deployments are not in response to violent, life-threatening crimes, but to serve drug-related warrants in private homes.

    "Often these no-knock raids take place at night, accompanied by "flash-bang" grenades designed temporarily to blind, deafen and confuse their targets. They can go horribly wrong: Mr Balko has found more than 50 examples of innocent people who have died as a result of botched SWAT raids. Officers can get jumpy and shoot unnecessarily, or accidentally. In 2011 Eurie Stamps, the stepfather of a suspected drug-dealer but himself suspected of no crimes, was killed while lying face-down on the floor when a SWAT-team officer reportedly tripped, causing his gun to discharge.

    "Householders, on hearing the door being smashed down, sometimes reach for their own guns. In 2006 Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old woman in Atlanta, mistook the police for robbers and fired a shot from an old pistol. Police shot her five times, killing her. After the shooting they planted marijuana in her home. It later emerged that they had falsified the information used to obtain their no-knock warrant."


    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You can read the rest of the article, but as the author points out, there is an economic reason the police like to do the 3:00 am raids with SWAT teams on suspected drug dealers. It is profitable. Rules on civil asset-forfeiture allow the police to seize anything which they can plausibly claim was the proceeds of a crime even if the homeowner is not convicted. The police can confiscate cash in the house and the house itself.

    "Many police departments now depend on forfeiture for a fat chunk of their budgets. In 1986, its first year of operation, the federal Asset Forfeiture Fund held $93.7m. By 2012, that and the related Seized Asset Deposit Fund held nearly $6 billion."

    Kind of reminds me of our "take prisoners for profit" prison system. Follow the money.
    Schmidt; excellent piece; hope some people wake up!!